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California mom: Exhume daughter's body

By Michael Martinez, CNN
Mitrice Richardson was last seen leaving a sheriff's station in September 2009.
Mitrice Richardson was last seen leaving a sheriff's station in September 2009.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mitrice Richardson went missing after she left a Los Angeles County Sheriff's station
  • Eleven months later her remains were found in a remote mountain area
  • Her mother asks authorities to exhume her daughter's remains

Los Angeles (CNN) -- -- The mother of a 24-year-old California woman whose decomposed remains were found in Malibu Canyon in August said Monday she believes her daughter was murdered and asked that the coroner exhume the remains and the FBI crime lab examine her clothing.

Mitrice Richardson was last seen leaving a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Lost Hills/Malibu station in September 2009 after being detained by deputies on a citizen's arrest complaint made by a restaurant manager.

She was missing for 11 months until her remains were discovered by park rangers searching an area of the Santa Monica Mountains for marijuana fields, authorities said.

Sheriff Lee Baca said last August that authorities had "no indication of a homicide," but Latice Sutton, 46, Richardson's mother, said she and a forensic anthropologist with the Los Angeles-based nonprofit Missing Persons Identification Resource Center disagree with the sheriff.

Sutton says evidence wasn't analyzed

The Los Angeles County coroner already has agreed with Sutton's request that medical examiner personally visit the remote area where deputies retrieved Richardson's remains, said Clea Koff, a forensic anthropologist with the resource center, who's working with Sutton.

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And Baca has agreed to meet with Sutton on December 29, Sutton said. For the FBI crime lab to examine Richardson's clothing, the sheriff has to request their involvement, she said.

But Sutton said she isn't satisfied that her daughter's death has been investigated thoroughly. She held a news conference at a Los Angeles church Monday to highlight her crusade.

"Today is the day I'm going public and I've announced some of the hidden facts that people are not aware of so that they can understand why I'm pushing that Mitrice's case be looked at as a homicide case," Sutton told CNN. Sutton, of La Verne, California, is an operation manager at a Boys and Girls Club of San Bernardino.

Richardson's father, Michael Richard, has acknowledged that his daughter was in a troubled mental condition the evening of her arrest for allegedly being unable to pay $89.51 for food and drink at a Malibu restaurant.

The woman's remains were found about eight miles from the sheriff's station, in the Monte Nido section of the Santa Monica Mountains, which bisect Los Angeles, Richardson's mother said.

"Mel Gibson gets driven to his car, and Charlie Sheen gets taken to his house," the father said last August, referring to practices by law officers in Malibu.

Richardson was just released, though she was in a manic state, Koff said.

Sutton cited several circumstances about her daughter's skeletal remains and mummified arm that made the mother believe her daughter was murdered.

Sutton said the mummified arm was bent in a way that would made if difficult for floodwater or other acts of nature to wash clothing off the body.

Richardson's bra was found unsnapped and her pants unzipped several hundred feet away from the remains, the mother said.

Her underwear, shoes and shirt were never recovered, the mother said.

Koff, the forensic anthropologist who has worked for the United Nations' international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, examined Richardson's remain at Sutton's request prior to burial.

She said that metallic jewelry and man-made artifacts were found in Richardson's hair, but the coroner's exam didn't examine those materials sufficiently.

Koff claimed that the pupae casings -- the eggs from which maggots hatch -- found on the remains were never tested to determine if the insects were consistent with the area in which the remains were found.

"We believe that it is imperative that the coroner complete the examination," Koff said.