Mitrice: The Drone is Going to Tell the Tale
Breahna Dawson last saw Mitrice Richardson during a service at the Pomona church they both attend. Dawson remembers the young woman’s warm greeting and bright smile. There wasn’t much conversation, but she appeared happy and at peace, Dawson said.
In the six months that Richardson has been missing, Dawson and other members of New Direction Community Church have prayed daily for her safe return and spent many hours passing out fliers.
On Sunday, several church members joined a group of volunteers in skid row in downtown, part of an expanded search that included teams in Malibu, Calabasas, Santa Monica and Hollywood. They walked neighborhood streets asking passersby if they had seen Richardson. “We just hope that she’s safe, we don’t want to think anything more than that,” said Rhonda Minter, another church volunteer. “We just hope that someone is watching over her.”
Richardson, 24, a Cal State Fullerton graduate, vanished after being released from the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station after midnight on Sept. 17, 2009. She had no car, no purse and no cellphone. She had been arrested at a Malibu restaurant for not paying a dinner bill and was reported by staff to have been acting strangely. Authorities have searched the rugged hills and canyons of Malibu several times without finding a trace of her.
Chip Croft, an independent video producer who helped to coordinate Sunday’s event, said there have been several credible sightings of Richardson downtown. With numerous homeless shelters, single-room occupancy hotels and social service centers, skid row is a place where someone like Richardson, who is thought to have had no money and may have been suffering from emotional problems, might end up, Croft said.
“I’ve been chasing leads all over town,” said Croft, who has also put up several videos on YouTube concerning Richardson. “We had a good lead down here in December, but it turned out not to be the right woman.”
This effort is also to keep Mitrice in the public mind especially after the highly publicized murders of Chelsea King and Amber DuBois in Southern California, and to continue to pursue the possibility that Mitrice is alive, but living mentally unstable on the streets.
However, I believe that San Diego State University’s Viz Center drone, used comprehensively and effectively, will tell the story whether Mitrice Richardson is alive or dead. The drone is a small unmanned aircraft that takes high resolution video and photos. Charles “Chip” Croft has previously maintained that, “the [Viz Center] drone has the capability of going down into canyons and can search better than any helicopter. It is not affected by winds as much and can fly extremely low to obtain very high resolution, close-up images and video.” He added, “The drone has discovered people and [skeletal] remains in about seven different instances when large searches failed.”
If the L.A. Sheriff’s Department can point this drone in the right direction and locations, within a 50-60 mile radius, we’ll have a better idea whether Mitrice is alive on the streets or elsewhere, or has died in the wilderness. The family will continue to do all it can to come with answers, but the onus has to come from Sheriff Baca and his Department. Suing won’t bring Mitrice back, but doing the equivalent of lying, stonewalling, hiding evidence, sequestering witnesses, and refusing to cooperate with the family makes it all the worse.