Today marks 13 years since the LA County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed the identification of Mitrice Richardson’s partially mummified remains, found just three days before on August 9th, 2010, in a remote area in Malibu Canyon known to locals as “Dark Canyon”.
At the time of the discovery, Park Rangers were surveying an area previously cleared of an illegal marijuana grow by the Marijuana Eradication Team (which includes Rangers and members of law enforcement).
After a highly contentious and controversial collection process, the LA County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed the remains did in fact belong to Mitrice Richardson.
Shortly after midnight on September 17th, 2009, Richardson was released from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station shortly after midnight from the Lost Hills Station. She had no means of transportation, no money and no cell. Richardson disappeared into the dead of night never to be seen alive again. She was found ten months later, just six miles from the station and 1.5 miles from where she was last seen.
Richardson’s case case continues to be unsolved.
Just a few days ago, on August 7th, 2023, hikers in Malibu Canyon made the startling and potentially traumatic discovery of human remains and contacted authorities.
The skeletal remains were located not far from a vehicle that appears to have driven off the road and landed a few hundred feet down into the canyon. It is unclear at the point if the remains are connected to the vehicle.
The City of Malibu issued a statement after to being notified of the incident:
“The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) reported to the City that, on August 7, two hikers in Malibu Canyon found skeletal remains inside the canyon. The area is extremely rugged with heavy foliage. There was a destroyed vehicle, which had been marked approximately a year and half ago, in proximity to the body. It is unknown whether the remains are linked to the vehicle. The Los Angeles County Coroner and LASD Headquarters Homicide Bureau are investigating. The area where the remains were located is part of Malibu Creek State Park. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS (8477) or use the website http://lacrimestoppers.org/. All media inquiries should be directed to the LASD.”
Most concerning, for a multitude of reasons, is the discovery of the remains in close proximity to a vehicle allegedly tagged by the authorities approximately a year and a half ago – and that the vehicle still remains at the bottom of this canyon with potential safety hazards, not to mention wildfire season approaching.
Malibu Daily News contacted local law enforcement, the City of Malibu and the LA County Fire Department for more information regarding this incident and to confirm if efforts were initially put forth to search the vehicle and the area when the car was found deep in Malibu Canyon.
Dr. Ronda Hampton, a clinical Psychologist from Diamond Bar Mitrice Richardson interned with and who has been an integral part of the case from the moment Richardson went missing, made this statement upon learning about the most recent remains found in Malibu Canyon:
Last year, a Malibu Search & Rescue volunteer reached out to Malibu Daily News after he was met with resistance by a longtime member of the LASD Malibu Search & Rescue team when he made a discovery on satellite photos that cold have potentially been the remains of Matthew Weaver Jr., who went missing on August 10th, 2018.
Ben Kuo, a HAM radio operator and satellite imagery expert who gained worldwide notoriety when a missing hiker posted a photo and Kuo was able to track his location and impressive following on Twitter, was approached by concerned citizens who reached out to Kuo on social media directing him to drone footage from an earlier search effort to find Matthew Weaver Jr. who went missing on August 10th, 2018.
Kuo received pushback from Lost Hills personnel and members of the Malibu Search and Rescue team for his efforts to alert the station and potentially find the remains of another missing person in the area.
As a result, Malibu Search and Rescue team leader David Katz, reluctantly led a drone operator out to check the coordinates provided by Kuo. His findings were reported to the family as inconclusive and nothing of significance, “just boulders”.
The Weaver family was accustomed to getting the runaround from LASD and Malibu Search and Rescue, a theme that started from day one in this case with the former head of the team, (now retired) Sargent Tui Wright.
The most recent pushback from Katz was suspicious and lacked compassion for the family. It also lacked respect for Kuo as this particular tip was deemed credible and was from a respected satellite imagery expert with a strong background in public safety reporting on social media.
None of that didn’t seem to impress Katz and resulted in this message Katz sent to Kuo regarding the efforts to investigate his potential findings:
“…I don’t want to risk our people any further on this than we already have. This guy wasn’t a hiker, he was a drug addict with a hinky past”…
Shortly after this uncomfortable exchange with Katz, Sgt. Ray Armstrong of the Lost Hills Station and head of Malibu Search and Rescue team at Lost Hills, sent Kuo an email immediately releasing him of his duties as a volunteer with the team.
The troubling communication Katz sent to Kuo, and his subsequent and surprising release from the team given his experience and expertise in public safety, shines a floodlight on the decades of cover-ups, mishandling and misdeeds by LASD involving in multiple high profile cases.
It also, further pushes the narrative that there are those in position of power who are equally in a position to further victimize.
While the efforts taken by those who risk their safety to search for the missing is highly appreciated and should never be undervalued or underestimated, clearly there are still dark forces that persist in our region preventing closure for the families and justice from prevailing in the unsolved high-profile cases in our region.
If you have any information regarding the Mitrice Richardson case please call: 1-310-906-0435
If you have information regarding the Elaine Park case please call 1-800-222-TIPS(8477) or go to lacrimestoppers.org
If you have any information regarding the Matthew Weaver case please call: 1-800-358-3830