Mitrice Richardson: Proof That She Was Having a “Severe” Mental Breakdown at the Time of Her Arrest at Geoffrey’s Restaurant
The proof is in the messy little car that she drove during her final days.
I say that because Mitrice was living out of her car, though she was not homeless and had more than enough money in the bank. She had not slept in five days when she made that fateful trip to Malibu. Her friends, when asked about it, did not find this a perplexing development; they had known her to do this before and had thought nothing of it. But it was evidence of Mitrice’s deteriorating condition. Her journals were found there, which gave psychologists a clear view of her state of mind up to that time. And again, the findings reflect badly on the Malibu Agoura-Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department’s version of events during that night.
The mental health professionals who read the journals at the request of police say Richardson may have been suffering from severe bipolar disorder, [Detective Chuck] Knolls said.
Police uncovered four or five journals — small bound books as well as spiral notebooks — in the car she drove Sept. 16 to Geoffrey’s in Malibu, where she behaved bizarrely, spoke in gibberish and ordered a steak dinner and cocktail.
When she said she couldn’t pay her $89.21 tab, staff at the restaurant called the Sheriff’s Department. “She sounds really crazy,” a staffer said during the call, a tape of which is posted on the website findmitrice.info.
Okay, for those who don’t know all the psychological terms, here is an explanation.
A bipolar episode is marked either by deep depression or by alternating episodes of mania (very high levels of energy–and crankiness and oversensitivity) and deep depression. In more extreme cases, the sufferer may also experience hallucinations and delusions.
What’s even more confusing is that these episodes are also marked by periods of ‘normal’ behavior, like a valley between two mountains, in which the individual may seem rational and functioning, but they are not. They certainly are not rational. Taken altogether, the condition is called “rapid cycling.”
(This is Mitrice during a beauty pageant.)
Remember that the sheriff’s deputies were so adamant that Mitrice appeared normal when she was released, and that when one of the jailers spoke to her, she was rational and talked about briefly about music? That Mitrice could take care of herself and more tellingly, that she was an adult and responsible for herself? Mitrice could have just had a bout of mania in the restaurant, and when she was at the jail, she could have had one of her valley-like periods of normality.
Heads are rolling with this revelation, especially since the Richardsons and their supporters have repeatedly maintained that Mitrice should have been sent along to the County mental health facility for psychiatric observation. Instead, the deputies were not doing their jobs. They did not do everything by the book. They were lax and disinterested when it came to a human life; heedless and arrogant when they should have remembered that the staff and manager at Geoffrey’s said that Mitrice seemed unbalanced and odd, especially when she said she was from outer space. The deputies were probably convinced that this black woman had put one over on the restaurant to get a free Kobe steak dinner, when it was much, much more serious than that. And they didn’t give a good goddamn to look deeper.
No doubt, the sheriff’s deputies’ version of events, like their official report, is going to need further revision-and more excuses–to back them up. But this time, the authorities are standing on really shaky ground.
There’s been a steadily increasing drumbeat of disapproval of and media spotlight on the Malibu Sheriff’s Department’s actions since Mitrice disappeared. For instance, there is an online petition to have Mitrice’s disappearance probed by the Justice Department, although the LAPD have insisted that the FBI’s presence in the case was not warranted. So far, over 3,500 signatures have been garnered, with 5,000 needed. On November 23, the Los Angeles Times weighed in with a very pointed editorial about the lack of compassion, foresight, and common sense evinced by the deputies involved in this case.
The Sheriff’s Department can’t be a taxi service, and the people it arrests have to be responsible for their own welfare once they’re released. Yet the department shouldn’t ignore the difficulties imposed on those it hauls off for booking. Policymakers should explore ways to ensure that people booked after hours with no way to get home, like Richardson, have options — for example, a shuttle to a public transportation hub or easy access to their car. In limited cases, such as when witnesses see signs of mental illness, it may even be wise to hold suspects until morning. A few extra hours of inconvenience is a reasonable trade-off for avoiding tragedy.
The City of Malibu pledged to meet the Los Angeles City Council’s reward of $10,000 towards information leading to the recovery of the young woman. Residents of the upscale community slowly became aware of the incident as Mitrice’s supporters, sometimes led by her father, canvassed the area with leaflets and conducted their own searches. Some began to show their concern in print in their local weekly newspapers, like the Malibu Surfside News and the Malibu Times, and in contributions. Every other week, Michael Richardson was in the news, conducting interviews with local media, marshaling his motorcycle club to ride on Mitrice’s behalf, having a prayer session with family and supporters in Los Angeles. Mitrice’s photograph appeared on the cover of People Magazine with an accompanying story, as part of a focus on missing children and young adults. Her parents have formally asked for U.S. Representative Maxine Waters to take a look at the case. Activist Jasmyne Cannick asked blacks to “nut up or shut up” about learning the fate of Mitrice Richardson, that she was the black equivalent of Jaycee Dugard, and to get involved. It was on.
As a result, the now-embattled County Sheriff Lee ‘by the book’ Baca finally met with Mitrice’s father last Friday, December 11, and opened a homicide investigation on Mitrice Richardson, says the Orange County Register, though there is no proof that Mitrice is dead or alive.
Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca decided to open a homicide investigation after meeting with Richardson’s father on Friday, spokesman Steve Whitmore said. That clears the way for the department to bring its “top-flight investigators” into the case, he said.
Whitmore said there has not been any new information that leads investigators to believe that Richardson was the victim of a homicide.
“It’s not that we believe the person’s dead,” he said. “We just want to get to the bottom of this.”
The Los Angeles Police Department has taken charge of the missing-person case, with its homicide detectives already leading the investigation. The Sheriff’s Department has assisted with the search, and Whitmore said it now plans to make some of its best detectives available to the investigative team.
Yeah, bet your ass you want to get to the bottom of this. It may be a bit late for that. Had they put their resources immediately into the search instead of footdragging and breastbeating about their honor as cops, Mitrice might have been found alive.
What else did the journals reveal?
In interviews with Knolls and Michael Richardson, a portrait emerges of an intensely spirited young woman grappling with a variety of issues — her sexual orientation, her career aspirations, her feelings about her family.
According to her father, she wanted to be a club promoter. In addition to her day job as an executive assistant at a freight company, she worked part time as a go-go dancer at Debra’s @ The Beach at Club Ripples, a gay and lesbian nightclub in Long Beach that features women dancers on Friday nights.
And though she had a long relationship with a woman who lives in San Francisco, Richardson had recently become captivated by another woman who rebuffed her interest, according to her father.
“This was the biggest slap in the face,” her father said. He quoted her writing: ” ‘It’s tough to be in love with someone who doesn’t love you back.’ ”
Richardson said he only now realizes that she was also bedeviled by a mental disorder.
In the five days leading up to her arrest, she apparently had not slept, instead phoning, texting, making entries on her MySpace and Facebook pages and writing in her journals around the clock.
“It’s hard to find a spot when she rested,” Knolls said of the sequence of events.
Mitrice had lovely handwriting, according to her father, but even this trait from time to time disintegrated into scrawls. Michael Richardson reported that he was still finding her notebooks at her former home with her grandmother. The young woman scribbled where she could find bound paper, trying to make sense of her life.
Bipolar disorder is also found among many creative and intellectual people. Many cultural historians have had to revise their impressions of the lives of famous artists and writers who seemed clearly unhinged at times, or allowed drugs and alcohol to encompass their lives because of our new understanding of these mental disorders. There is a price for being creative, and Mitrice with a high IQ and with a creative spirit, certainly fits the bill.
So where could Mitrice be?
Detective Knolls admits that the most likely scenario is that Mitrice suffered death by misadventure, that is, “she may have succumbed to the elements.” Furthermore, he, like some others in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, thinks that the terrain around the station where Mitrice was last seen alive should be searched to the east and west.
Then get there, and do it right.
Another possibility is that Mitrice may have committed suicide out in the open, with no food or water to sustain her or had an accident from which she did not recover. Failing that, the least likely scenario is that Mitrice may have been rescued by someone with whom she is now having a relationship. Her father believes that she is alive. Until Mitrice breaks up with this individual, the scenario goes, she may not wish to reconnect with the old life–her family and friends. As much as I would like to think that this latter may be the case, if Mitrice had been found by a mountain lion or a sexual predator, weakened, perhaps injured, and weary, she would not have been left alive.
Her poor scattered bones are out there, somewhere. Bring them back so that her people could have some closure. The LAPD have asked that Mitrice’s parents provide DNA samples to the Department of Justice to make identification possible. Detective Steven Eguchi, the other detective assigned to the case said, “This is standard operating procedure. It is not out of the ordinary […].”
If Mitrice Richardson had been blonde and white, this case wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary.