LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A breakdown of communication between sheriff’s deputies and the Los Angeles County coroner’s office led to problems handling the remains of a woman who disappeared after her release from police custody, according to a report released Wednesday.
The county’s Office of Independent Review found that questions continue to linger over what information was exchanged between sheriff’s investigators and the coroner’s office when Mitrice Richardson’s remains were discovered in a remote canyon in August 2010. At the time, a coroner’s official criticized sheriff’s deputies for moving the remains before the scene could be examined by forensics experts.
According to the OIR report, the coroner’s office had actually given initial approval for sheriff’s deputies to remove four bones that had been discovered. When deputies began removing the bones, however, it was discovered that they were connected to a full skeleton.
Sheriff’s officials contend that an additional phone call was made to the coroner to authorize the removal of the full skeleton, but coroner’s officials deny ever receiving such a request, according to the report.
Michael Gennaco, the chief attorney for the OIR, claimed that his investigation found no evidence of an attempt by either agency to cover up information, simply a lack of communication that led to public questions about the activities of both.
Richardson, 24, was arrested on the evening of Sept. 16, 2009 for failing to pay her bill at Geoffrey’s restaurant in Malibu. She disappeared after her release the next day from the sheriff’s Lost Hills station. She had no car, phone or money at the time of her release.
Her remains were found 11 months later in Malibu Canyon.
Richardson’s parents have filed a lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Department for the way it handled their daughter’s case. The suit claims deputies removed the remains without the county coroner’s permission.
In July, Richardson’s parents exhumed her body and hired a private pathologist to investigate. It is unclear how the young woman died.