Authorities found eight bones believed to belong to Mitrice Richardson on Sunday while combing the rugged Malibu Canyon ravine where the missing 24-year-old's remains were found in August, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
The bones, some of which are believed to be fragments of Richardson's ribs, fingers and wrist, were found six months after the bulk of her remains were removed by the Sheriff's Department. Richardson's family, which has long criticized the department's handling of the case, hopes the discovery will spur authorities to exhume Richardson's body and conduct further testing that could determine how the young woman died after she was released from the sheriff's Malibu station in September 2009.
"Today, we were able to find some more of my daughter's remains, so we can put them with the rest of her remains," said Latice Sutton, Richardson's mother. "More importantly, I hope that they see the importance of going back and doing all the tests that I requested — the proper testing."
Richardson was arrested at Geoffrey's restaurant in Malibu after being unable to pay an $89 dinner tab and acting bizarrely. She was released from the sheriff's station after midnight — without her car, purse or cellphone — and vanished.
Her family has filed suit against the county and the Sheriff's Department, alleging negligence and wrongful death. Since November, when Sutton visited the area where her daughter was discovered and found a finger bone, the family has been urging investigators to revisit the site.
"If I can go up there and find a finger bone while I'm up there memorializing her, then a thorough job was not done," she said, adding that she couldn't "describe how angry it makes me" to have to push for a more thorough investigation.
Authorities have been unable to determine a cause of death but say they have seen no evidence of foul play.
Sutton believes that her daughter was sexually assaulted and murdered before being dumped in the ravine and that finding a neck bone, the hyoid, could reveal if her daughter had been strangled. She said she does not believe the bone was among those found Sunday.
The coroner's office blasted the Sheriff's Department for moving the remains before coroner's investigators could examine them, saying the actions may have violated the law and undermined the thoroughness of the coroner's inquiry. Steve Whitmore, a sheriff's spokesman, said the coroner's office had granted permission to move the body.
Whitmore said Sunday that 99% of Richardson's remains were collected shortly after their discovery but that the coroner's office had long wanted to search the area again. Rainy conditions hampered previous efforts, but sunny, dry weather allowed investigators to visit the site by helicopter on Sunday, their fourth visit since Richardson's remains were discovered.
"The coroner wants to go back there and make sure we've found everything," he said.
Six coroner's investigators, one sheriff's homicide investigator, four sheriff's search-and-rescue personnel, a human-remains detection dog and a sheriff's liaison to the family were lowered from the chopper into the ravine about 9:30 a.m. and spent nearly five hours searching an area roughly as large as a typical living room.