Mother Sues L.A. County for Negligence, Wrongful Death Over Girl’s Disappearance

The mother of a former beauty pageant contestant has filed suit against Los Angeles County for wrongful death and negligence in the death of her daughter, according to court documents.

Latice Sutton filed the suit in Los Angeles Superior Court, against both the county and several sheriff’s officials, alleging that the department failed to administer psychiatric or medical evaluations after arresting Mitrice Richardson, 24, who suffered from mental health issues.

Richardson was brought into custody after employees and patrons of Geoffrey’s, an upscale restaurant in Malibu, witnessed her acting erratically. Not only had Richardson been drinking and run up an $89 bill, which she refused to pay, she was also “sitting down with strangers and speaking in gibberish,” according to the lawsuit.

“It was not just the money,” said Jeff Peterson, the owner of Geoffrey’s. “Something was wrong with her. And it wasn’t the alcohol, and we didn’t know what to do with her, and we didn’t want to put her in a vehicle.”

Documents filed in connection with the lawsuit say that Richardson, after being taken to the sheriff’s office and detained, can be seen on videotapes “clutching the screen of the holding pen and rocking from side to side” and “pulling at her hair and trying to get into the fetal position face down on a concrete bench.”

Richardson was held for a time and then released, in the early morning hours of September 17, 2009. She was never seen again. Although her body has not been found, a court has declared her dead.

Sutton says that she made several calls to the sheriff’s station that night, trying to determine when her daughter would be released so that she could come pick her up, but that officials released her without notifying Sutton.

Sutton also alleges that her daughter, a former beauty pageant contestant and a college honors graduate, was released from the sheriff’s station “alone in an unfamiliar area without money, a cellular phone or means of transportation” and that this release amounts to negligence on behalf of law enforcement officials.

A spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has denying all wrongdoing, saying that “all indications that night were that Mitrice was doing OK. She took sobriety tests, signed documents, talked to the jailer. She was not in mental distress when we were with her.”

The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages.

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