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Woman's body to be exhumed

Mitrice Richardson's skeletal remains will be examined by the FBI, Sheriff Baca says.

January 06, 2011|Carla Hall

The remains of Mitrice Richardson, the woman who disappeared after being released from the Lost Hills/Malibu sheriff's station and was found dead nearly a year later, will be exhumed for further examination by the FBI, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.

Clothing found near her remains -- and assumed to be hers -- as well as a hank of hair discovered nearby will also be examined.

Baca said he called Steven Martinez, head of the FBI's Los Angeles field office, in late December to request the agency's involvement.

"I am responding to the family's wishes," Baca said in a phone interview. "But I also think it doesn't hurt having the FBI say, 'We've examined this and find the following.' I think the needs of the family should be my first priority."

Laura Eimiller, spokeswoman for the FBI in Los Angeles, confirmed that Baca had had discussions with Martinez and had submitted a written request for the agency's assistance.

Eimiller said it is premature to say whether the remains will be sent to the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Va., or analyzed at local labs the agency uses. "We'll review the evidence to determine the extent to which we will provide assistance," she said.

The L.A. County coroner has agreed to the exhumation, according to Ed Winter, assistant chief of the coroner's office, Baca said. The coroner's report on Richardson's remains left the cause of death as undetermined.

No date has been set for the exhumation. "We have to coordinate with the FBI about when this is going to happen," Winter said.

The Sheriff's Department has been dogged by criticism ever since Richardson disappeared after walking out of the Lost Hills station in Calabasas shortly after midnight Sept. 17, 2009. She had been arrested for not paying a dinner bill at Geoffrey's restaurant in Malibu. Her car was impounded and in it were her cellphone and purse.

The department, which faces two negligence lawsuits in the matter, was found to have correctly followed policy that early morning.

"Certainly you have to think twice about everything you do in this business we're in," said Baca, who has met several times with Richardson's family members since the 24-year-old went missing. "The most important thing is that Mitrice was offered the opportunity to stay [at the station] until it was a safer period of time for her to leave. I don't know if there's a policy that can stop a free person from leaving a jail facility, which she had a right to do as an adult."

But Baca said he would like to add a sheriff's station to serve that area that would be less remote than the Lost Hills/Malibu station.

"I have for years wanted to reopen the old Malibu station where people could come to the city of Malibu, get booked and not have that distance to go from Lost Hills," Baca said. It would help people "if we don't just put cars in an impound area ridiculously far from where the individual is jailed."

Baca said he and L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky were working on a plan to open a substation in the Malibu Civic Center.

Richardson's skeletal remains were found last August in a remote part of the rugged Malibu Canyon area south of the Lost Hills station.

carla.hall@latimes.com

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