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Woman goes missing after jail release

September 24, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A local family is threatening a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department after a woman disappeared shortly after being released from a sheriff's station. Deputies say 24-year-old Mitrice Richardson was unable to pay her bill at an expensive restaurant, so she was arrested. She was released from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Lost Hills Station early Friday morning, and hasn't been seen since. Her family is blaming deputies for her disappearance.

The sense of urgency to find Mitrice Richardson is increasing. It's been a full week since Richardson was released from the station with no car, no phone and no money. Her family has hired a civil rights attorney, and they are demanding answers.

A frustrated father concerned about his missing 24-year-old daughter lashes out at the media and hurls strong allegations against the L.A. County Sheriff's Dept., allegations of inaction, and even a cover-up.

"I'm upset," said Michael Richardson, Mitrice's father. "But I'm going to keep a level head because I've been asked to. I don't expect these people to move, because they haven't."

"We want our daughter found," said Latice Sutton, Mitrice's mother. "We feel that there's not been enough effort to locate her. All we want is our daughter home."

The 24-year-old is a graduate of California State University, Fullerton, with a degree in psychology.

Authorities say Richardson was arrested at Geoffrey's Malibu restaurant for failing to pay her dinner tab, and for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.

"I specifically told the deputy: This is uncharacteristic of my daughter," said Latice Sutton. "My daughter does not go places and not pay a tab. I continuously re-iterate it. Something is wrong with my daughter. She appears to be in a crisis state."

"If Mitrice Richardson's name was 'Spears' or 'Lohan,' they would never let her walk out by herself. The would have escorted her home," said the family's attorney, Leo Terrell.

The family, who hired civil rights attorney Terrell, blames the department for releasing Richardson at 12:30 a.m. without notifying family members.

Meantime, the department says the Office of Independent Review is investigating the case as the search for Richardson continues.

"The only thing that matters is her safe return," said Steve Whitmore, spokesman for the L.A. County Sheriff's Dept. "That's what I pray for, that's what I hope for, that's what we all pray for, and we hope for."

In an exclusive off-camera interview with the civilian jailer, custody assistant Sharon Cummings, who watched over Richardson during her stay at the station, she told Eyewitness News: "When I found out she didn't have a ride, I asked her why don't you stay, it's kind of dark and a bit cool, you don't have a jacket. I knew she lived out in L.A. and didn't know the area. But she said she didn't want to spend the night in jail, and she was hooking up with some friends."

There will be a multi-agency, large scale, search with K-9 units, officers on horseback, as well as helicopters, involved in the search this Saturday.

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