- Posted August 18, 2011 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
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Safety Rally held In Memory of Mitrice Richardson... How Prepared Are You?
- zdan, CNN iReport producer
In honor of the 1st year anniversary of the discovery of Mitrice Richardson's remains, her family hosted a safety rally at the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff's Station on Saturday, August 13th. Family, friends and local residents came out to the station to get important safety tips.
Twenty-four-year-old Richardson disappeared on Sept 16, 2009, after being released from the Malibu/ Lost Hills Sheriff's Station at approximately 1 a.m. Her remains were found nearly a year later in a Malibu canyon.
Latice Sutton, Mitrice Richardson's mother, said she wants to help educate the public on the importance of simple steps of safety for all ages. She expressed gratitude to the community at large for their support and efforts during the 11 months her daughter was missing.
During the rally on Saturday, individual safety packets were made that included finger prints and a photo. Everyone was encouraged to practice three simple self-defense techniques. Keeping it fun for the children helped reduce fear, while drawing awareness to important issues.
In addition to the rally, Sutton, along with her sister Lauren Sutton and Dr. Ronda Hampton, founded Mitrice Inc., a nonprofit organization designed to help bring awareness to mental health issues and safety when a loved one goes missing.
Prior to her disappearance in 2009, Richardson was released from the Sheriff's station without transportation, a cell phone or any type of identification. She had been charged with "Failure to pay an Innkeeper" at Geoffrey's in Malibu.
Richardson's behavior was bizarre from the moment she entered the restaurant, the manager at Geoffrey's stated. She spoke with patrons at the restaurant, telling them she was from Mars and was speaking in a made-up language.
Jeff Peterson, owner of Geoffrey's, said he felt Mitrice needed help. We were concerned, Peterson said, "It was not about the bill. We were concerned for her safety. We just couldn't let her go into the night."
Richardson passed a sobriety test, but Sheriff's deputies did not perform a mental evaluation. Sutton said Richardson had no signs of mental illness prior to this night. She said law officials reassured her that Richardson would not be released until Sutton could go pick her up the next morning.
Her remains were discovered on Aug. 9, 2010 in a remote area in a Malibu/Lost Hills canyon, nearly one year after she was reported missing.
"I want to change the late night releases at the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff's Station" Sutton said. "I do not want my daughter's death to be in vain. I want to help prevent another senseless loss."
Sheriff's spokesperson Steve Whitmore was present at the rally to support the family.
"What we are here to do, if we can, is to help them have a successful event," Whitmore said. "Sheriff Baca is committed to helping the family in any way that he can, to resolve what happened to this young, beautiful lady."
Sutton and Richardson's family, along with local residents, attended the Malibu Public Safety Meeting on Aug. 3 during which the commission recommended that changes be made in regard to late-night releases from the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff's Station. There was also a review of the Sheriff's department's protocol for traffic stops during night hours.
The revised policy recommends that arrestees remain at the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff's Station from dusk till dawn, or until transportation arrives.
Due to the lack of public transportation during the evening hours, as well as the remote location of the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff's station, releasing arrestees in the middle of the night is not considered a safe or reasonable action.
Another recommendation by the safety commission was to allow arrestees to maintain possession of their purses, wallets and cell phones once law officials completed their search for possible weapons.
In an Office of Independent Review report, it is accounted that Richardson was released when it was deemed "safe and prudent." The family disputes this claim, saying there was nothing safe or prudent about their daughter's release at 1 a.m. A lawsuit was filed by both of Richardson's parents against the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department over the handling of her release.