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Coroner's officials examining remains found in Malibu Canyon

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The family of missing Mitrice Richardson believes the remains may belong to their loved one
  • The coroner's office hopes to make a final identification by Thursday morning
  • Clothing was found "near the body," assistant chief coroner says
  • Richardson was last seen leaving a Malibu sheriff's station September 17

(CNN) -- County coroner's officials in Los Angeles, California, were conducting an examination Wednesday of skeletal remains found in a remote area of Malibu Canyon, while the family of a woman missing nearly a year awaited word on any clues the bones were yielding.

Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter told CNN that an anthropologist and pathologist were examining the remains Wednesday, and an odontologist -- or dental expert -- was expected to arrive Wednesday night to make a final identification.

Winter said he hopes to make an announcement of the examination's findings by Thursday morning.

The remains, which included a human skull, were found Monday by park rangers searching the area for marijuana groves, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore.

"It's incredibly treacherous terrain," Whitmore said of the remote site. "There is no road, no trail even if you know exactly where you are going."

Whitmore said it appeared the remains had been in the area "for quite awhile."

The family of missing Mitrice Richardson have been waiting to hear whether the remains are those of their loved one.

Richardson, who would be 25 now, is a former beauty pageant contestant who was last seen leaving a Los Angeles County sheriff's station in Malibu during the early morning hours of September 17, 2009. She had been arrested the previous evening at an upscale restaurant for allegedly not paying for her meal, and patrons at the restaurant said she exhibited strange behavior.

Her family has said the college honors graduate suffered from mental health issues and should have been kept at the sheriff's station until a relative arrived to pick her up.

The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that the remains are female and that "women's clothing was also found near the scene," citing unidentified law enforcement sources.

Winter would not confirm Wednesday the gender of the remains. He said clothing was found "near the body," but declined to elaborate on what type, saying many people had been using the area where marijuana was known to be harvested.

Latice Sutton, the mother of Richardson, held a news conference Tuesday night outside the coroner's office, saying she had been told that the clothing found was a pair of Levis, and appealed to officials to let her view the clothing.

"I do know that my daughter was wearing jeans that night," Sutton said.

Michael Richardson, Mitrice's father, told HLN's "Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell on Wednesday, that he isn't giving up the search for his daughter.

"I'm still remaining hopeful, positive, prayerful ... and until they can give me a definitive answer about it, Mitrice is still needing for us to search for her," he said.

The family of Richardson was joined at the canyon site Monday by another woman who believed the remains could belong to her husband, Timothy.

Pam Perryman said her husband went missing six years ago while hiking in the area.

"I've been praying that we would find him because it's our anniversary this Saturday," Perryman told CNN iReporter Julie Ellerton. "I just have a feeling ... in a way I hope it is him, in a way I hope it's not."

CNN's Sarah Aarthun contributed to this report.