Mitrice in life.
Mitrice in death.
The Malibu Surfside News was the only media, it appears, that covered the funeral of Mitrice Richardson. The L.A. Times only covered the memorials. You will have to thank Anne Soble, along with Jasmyne Cannick and a few others, who have been consistent in their coverage of this horrible ordeal and its grisly ending. There are no other photos or articles available about the funeral that I have been able to find, and I only found two at the Surfside News.
Because now comes the hard part. We know the LASD lied, covered up, hid evidence, changed timelines and fabricated a police “independent” review exonerating them for the actions that they took the night Mitrice disappeared. More and more, it looks like either the deputies were involved, or that someone that they knew killed her and that they are covering up for them. Something happened to Mitrice Richardson. We have to continually hold the authorities’ feet to the fire until the facts are known.
There were so many magnificent stargazer lilies in the arrangements that their lush fragrance filled the air, enhancing the backdrop for video photo montages of the vivacious 24-year-old honors college graduate from infancy to her Cal State Fullerton commencement in 2008.
In the photos, there is one constant, the radiant smile that speaker after speaker described as emblematic of the upbeat personality and joy for living that Richardson embodied.
Those who came to say farewell ranged in age from newborn to Mitrice’s 92-year-old great-grandmother Mildred Harris, with whom Richardson lived before she disappeared last Sept. 17 in the now familiar story of her booking and release from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station with no money, cell phone or transportation just after midnight in a remote area she had never been in before.
The services were visceral farewells for deeply religious family members who waved their arms in the air and praised their Lord aloud during sermons and speeches.
It was also a rallying cry to action by Pastor Robert Hendricks, of the church where the young woman was part of the youth ministry, who said, “The search for Mitrice is now over, but the journey is not over.”
Proclaiming, “Mitrice’s blood still cries out on the ground,” he said, “A vast army of God [is charged with] bringing accountability, integrity and justice.”
He added, “All of us are just a breakdown away. But for $89…would those involved have done this to their own daughters?”
“We are our brother’s keeper. We have an obligation to each other and must be committed to justice.” Hendricks said this should be the goal of every community.
Unfortunately, there was a bit of a display earlier in reaction to part of the minister’s sermon that took the emphasis briefly off the dead girl. You know how sometimes, during family gatherings like weddings, funerals, picnics, and holidays, old sh*t gets raked over by people who should know better. This occasion was no exception.
When the pastor praised the role of the dead woman’s mother Latice Sutton, and her stepfather Larry Sutton, who helped raise Mitrice Richardson from about five years of age through college, her biological father became visibly agitated, then reached for his mother who was seated behind him, stood up and told his family members and friends to walk out.
Many of the people filing out looked puzzled and even embarrassed. Some of them tugged on the person next to them to follow.
As they left, the pastor continued his comments, those in attendance listened and the empty pews spoke to the attitude of the man who repeatedly declares, despite rulings to the contrary, that he is Mitrice’s “legal next of kin” and entitled to act on behalf of her estate in litigation.
About 15 minutes later, most of those who had walked out returned to their seats but Richardson remained outside. It was announced that he would join those making remarks to the congregation.
Comments by his mother, Sally Ann Kelly-Richardson, who spoke with a deep rich cadence, preceded those of her son. She eased the tension in the nave as she told an endearing story about her granddaughter and the humorous havoc that a mischievous toddler could wreak with the contents of a container of baby powder.
Then Michael Richardson went up to the microphone. He said, “I don’t want everyone to get nervous [about what I’m going to say],” still waving the orange bandanna as if it was a flag or colors.
Though not as charismatic a speaker as his mother, he lavished praised on his daughter’s stepfather, Larry Sutton, and said, “When I wasn’t ready to be a father, Larry was.”
Richardson then publicly announced, “I went to prison [and Latice did an excellent job as mother], while I was in jail.”
Family members have indicated that Michael Richardson was sentenced to a prison term of over six years for strong-arm robbery. They add that the dead woman’s biological father played no role in her life from when she was three until about 15, when intermittent visits began.
Describing himself as “a very angry person,” the father said, “I am going to try to keep dignified and professional,” then said, “Latice Sutton is no joke, [and] neither am I.”
Michael Richardson has repeatedly refused to work with other family members on the searches and public information outreach, and the funeral was no exception.
Worse yet, he contributed nothing to the burial of his own daughter “not a penny for funeral costs, not the casket, not the cemetery, not anything.” Any fundraising that he has done, in the view of Latice Sutton, has gone into his own pocket and into his own self-promotion, and not in the service of finding his daughter.
Nor does Richardson disguise that he relishes the media spotlight. He frequently contacts members of the press himself and gives his own public appearances high marks on his website and blog.
Mitrice Richardson’s biological father held his own memorial service Aug. 16 and has announced he plans to hold another larger one for all those who “have grown attached to Mitrice’s unfortunate fate,” as well as begin an another series of fundraisers.
Waving that orange bandanna around, showing off to everyone with that embarrassing walkout that he was the father of Mitrice Richardson was uncouth and insensitive. All those people didn’t come for him; they came for his daughter. All family fighting should have been kept at the downlow in memory of that girl. And the fact of his relative absence from Mitrice’s life until the last nine years of her life for whatever reason: it is what it is. Slathering on all that false praise on Larry Sutton. From what I read, Michael Richardson himself seemed slightly unhinged. If he had simply wept or spoken loudly through his tears, as what sometimes happens at black funerals, I would have understood his grief. That’s where it is supposed to happen. Instead, it was a bad performance all the way around, and with it, Richardson may have damaged his own credibility.
Sitting behind the mourners, however, was Jeff Peterson, the owner of Geoffrey’s Restaurant, the restaurant that has received so much notoriety for handing Mitrice Richardson over to the sheriff’s deputies, and thus to her death. Peterson approached Mitrice’s mother and family August 12 horror-stricken at his part in the tragedy.
He said the three deputies who responded to the call were repeatedly told, “Something is wrong,” and “She needs help.” Peterson voiced concern that Sheriff Baca (at his press conference announcing Mitrice’s body had been found) put emphasis on the restaurant’s citizen’s arrest and not on the deputies’ assessment of the situation.
He said he couldn’t understand how Geoffrey’s employees saw one Mitrice Richardson and LASD personnel saw another.
Peterson talked to members of the woman’s family circle last Thursday—one of whom said they could see that he “was in pain.” He told them, “We thought we were protecting her and others if she was kept from driving on Pacific Coast Highway.”
He said the deputies who led her away in handcuffs did not have to do what they did. “What they did should not be represented as our actions. If we could see this was someone in distress, why couldn’t they?”
On August 22, Peterson said he was honored to have participated in the celebration of Mitrice’s life, and that he was invited to come “to share that moment with her family” after he telephoned Latice Sutton with his condolences.
No, I don’t think he was tripping because he might get hit with a lawsuit, or that he might lose patrons for his part in the case. So far, Peterson and the restaurant staff have been pretty consistent with their end of the story, whereas the LASD has been conspicuously less so.
Peterson, like many others, have been given a first-hand, ugly view of how L.A. law enforcement throws its weight around, treats certain people differently, and tries to cover its tracks while fobbing off blame on others, namely Geoffrey’s Restaurant and on Latice Sutton. I’m sure it’s been horrifying for him to witness and to relive again and again what happened that night. And whether he could take some of what he did back, if it could return Mitrice alive and whole to her family. I’m sure that earlier, he had been thinking that the cops and the sheriff’s deputies are around to protect everyone. And then come to find out, they don’t.
Not only Peterson was present, but Moe Dubois, Amber Dubois’ father, now a missing-persons advocate, who has been giving assistance to Mitrice’s mother and family. Congresswoman Maxine Waters was also there, saying that she would continue to do all that she could on the Federal level. I would say, the most Waters could do is get the FBI to examine this case from the get-go or better yet, a special prosecutor that would be independent of any police or sheriff’s interference or special, long-time ties. But Waters is in trouble, currently embroiled in a Congressional probe of ethics violations. It’s going to take more than Waters’ hand-wringing to see some justice here.
Richardson was interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery under a bright blue sky. There was a gentle breeze. Her mother and her 12-year-old sister released several dozen beautiful butterflies, symbolizing that they and Mitrice Richardson are now free.
I just wish people could be free without having to die needlessly. I know that I am thinking of you, Mitrice.