The strange saga of Mitrice Richardson is now a murder investigation, according to sheriff's officials. The woman went missing from the sheriff's Lost Hills station early on the morning of Sept. 24 after she was detained there for allegedly failing to pay a restaurant bill in nearby Malibu.
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After being let out, Richardson was on her own in the hills above Malibu, in the dark of night, without transportation, and apparently without money. And she vanished.
Richardson's family has been critical of the Sheriff's Department for letting the young woman walk the hillside roads at night alone. And they had been campaigning for the department to upgrade the case from missing person to potential murder.
Now, under the order of Sheriff Lee Baca, three sheriff's homicide investigators will join a Los Angeles police team already on the missing person's case (she's from the city of Los Angeles).
Some investigators think her behavior at the restaurant before she went missing was out of character and that Richardson, a Cal State Fullerton graduate, might have had "a major mental breakdown,'' as Los Angeles police Det. Chuck Knolls put it.