Lie & Deny: What Does the Still Unsolved Death of Mitrice Richardson Say About the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department?

Lost Compassion Trailer 2015 from Chip Croft on Vimeo.


In February, six years after Mitrice Richardson’s body—or what remained of it— was found in a nearly impenetrable area of the Santa Monica Mountains called Dark Canyon, the Office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris agreed to launch a formal investigation into the way the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department handled the Richardson case. Whether the investigation will be pro forma or truly aggressive remains to be seen.

(WLA reported on the AG’s decision to take up the case here.)

Now Newsweek’s Alexander Nazaryan, has taken a new and very interesting look at the matter of Mitrice Richardson—her arrest, her incomprehensible release in the middle of the night, without her car, purse, cell phone or any cash, the staggeringly clumsy treatment of her remains.

But instead attempting to reinvestigate Richardson’s case, Nazaryan has instead examined the larger departmental context in which these actions involving Richardson occurred.

The result is disturbing.

Here’s a clip from Nazaryan’s excellent longread story. We strongly recommend you read the whole thing.

We hope the relevant people in the California Attorney General’s Office will also read the story.

Sitting in a car parked outside an Albertsons supermarket, Ronda Hampton was sobbing. “I can’t do this,” she cried, holding a bouquet of flowers, afternoon shoppers pushing past us, the Santa Monica Mountains aflame with sunlight in the distance. Chip Croft, a documentarian, made some feeble attempts to calm her down, but Hampton kept crying, so the three of us sat there awkwardly, two white men somberly watching a black woman wail over the death of another black woman.

After a time, Hampton’s tears subsided, and we headed off into the hills of Malibu Creek State Park, around where the 24-year-old Mitrice Richardson disappeared on September 17, 2009, several hours after being released from police custody in the middle of the night. Croft, who did not know Richardson but recently made a documentary about her with Hampton, drove, at times pointing out where celebrities lived, as if we were on one of those Hollywood tours.

Richardson had been arrested at a popular restaurant on the Pacific Coast Highway, just down the road from the beachfront estate of Steven Spielberg; Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies towed her car and took her inland to the Malibu/Lost Hills station, close to the Albertsons where Hampton broke down. That’s the station made briefly famous in 2006, when Mel Gibson was transported there after being pulled over for drunken driving. Deputies eventually escorted Gibson from Lost Hills to his towed car; the department tends to treat the famous with deference. Richardson had competed in beauty contests, but she was not a celebrity. She was released into the night at 12:38 a.m. without money or phone, expected to hike the 11 miles to the tow pound, which is on the Pacific coast.

Richardson was last seen the following morning in a residential area of the Santa Monica Mountains called Monte Nido, near the house of retired television news reporter Bill Smith, not far from the vast estate of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith (no relation). Richardson’s half-decomposed body was found several months later, in a remote stretch of the park called Dark Canyon, the clothes she’d been wearing scattered nearby. Some law enforcement officials surmised that Richardson, who suffered from bipolar disorder, walked into the canyon, took off her clothes and succumbed to anaphylactic shock from extensive poison oak exposure. This is highly unlikely, but so is every other hypothesis about her death: violent vagrants, drug cartels, neo-Nazis. Nobody knows anything, though most everyone suspects something. The most grave of these suspicions are aimed at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD).

Mitrice Richardson was a young woman who became a case but also cause. To many in Los Angeles, she is a symbol too, as potent as Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, or Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, of a law enforcement culture that has grown contemptuous of both laws and men. “I consider Mitrice Richardson to be a victim of police brutality,” says Jasmyne Cannick, a Los Angeles journalist who writes frequently about race.

To those familiar with the LASD, everything about the handling of the Richardson case is horrific, but none of it is surprising. “The Sheriff’s Department is much worse than LAPD,” one lawyer said in a Knight Ridder investigation into the LASD. That was in the summer of 1991, blurry footage of Rodney King being beaten by four Los Angeles Police Department officers haunting the nation. The lawyer continued: “A growing joke in our circles is you never would have had the Rodney King videotape if they were sheriff’s deputies, because they just would have shot him.”

The sheriff at the time was Sherman Block, who died in 1998 and was replaced by Leroy “Lee” Baca, who had spent three decades rising steadily through the LASD ranks. The department was his from 1998 until 2014.

Now, though, Baca is probably headed to prison for lying to federal investigators looking into abuses in the jails run by his department. Because he took a plea deal, the sentence, to be doled out in May, won’t be longer than six months. The sentence for Baca’s longtime undersheriff, Paul Tanaka, who was convicted earlier this month on a similar array of charges, could be up to 15 years. Neither man had any direct connection to Richardson’s disappearance, but the secrecy, tribalism and cynical dishonesty that tarnished that investigation have manifested elsewhere: in the horrific abuses in the Los Angeles jail system, the nation’s largest, which the LASD operates; in the racial profiling by LASD deputies across the Antelope Valley; in charges of fawning favoritism for celebrities but often belligerent disdain for the average citizen.

Bob Olmsted, a former LASD commander who mounted a failed bid for the department’s top spot in 2014, tells me the men in charge of the department had an modus operandi for all potentially troublesome situations: “lie and deny.”

“They destroyed the organization,” he says of Baca and Tanaka. “They destroyed the public trust.”


  • Maybe now with the admissions of guilt, the convictions, and the obvious cover-ups – someone will look at the corruption in this department which goes beyond the jails.

    Those who are in the department sitting on information that would bring about a better understanding of what happened to Mitrice Richardson and others who have been victimized by the LASD are guilty of contributing to the cover up and not upholding your duty to protect and serve. The corruption is real and it is destroying the lives of everyday citizens, every day!!!

  • Finally, millons will see how the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department does their dirty work. Their lies and ineptness is reviewed world wide.
    Let’s see how fast the ball and heads start rolling after this.
    Bravo to Dr. Ronda Hampton along with countless others who never gave up hope. This is ONE that the Sheriff’s Department will not get away with.

  • “What does the still unsolved death of Mitrice Richardson say about the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department?” the headline asks.

    Answer: FUBAR.

    That word originated in the U.S. Military in WWII, and it can be Googled if you don’t know what it means.

  • drronda, I have followed the posts regarding this case and, as a former insider – now outsider, am curious about specific facts of the case. As I understand it, Deputies were called to the restaurant because Ms. Richardson did not pay her bill. They arrested her for what? Defrauding an Innkeeper – a misdemeanor? If so, have you any information regarding the policy at the time regarding cite and release in the field? These policies change and I was gone when this incident occurred.

    At what time did this occur and at what time did the call from the family to the jailer(?) happen. I note that the release was at 1223hrs(?). It sounds like a new shift had come on and the jailer and watch commander had different ideas about what to do with Ms. Richardson. The “problem” might have been in what information was handed off at shift change – as a former watch commander I frankly would not have expected that such information would have been passed along by the watch commanders – but certainly by the jailers.

    Do you know if the information was passed from pm shift to the em shift jailers? Watch commanders?

    If the information was not passed along, her release was inevitable on the em shift.

    Either way, the fact that they did say that they would hold her until later did establish a “special relationship” with the family and she should not have been released. Indeed it was the Department’s fault that it happened, I was just trying to establish what/why it happened.

    However, I would also fault the jailer for making such a promise – even if it were in good faith, which it was. In establishing that “special relationship” it placed the Department in the position they ended up in. It would have been better to follow policy and tell the family that Ms. Richardson would be released as soon as she was cleared for release and give a time frame for that release – as cold as that seems. I am sure through the perspective of 20-20 hindsight everyone involved wishes this is what would have happened.

    I am also curious what her car had to do with the arrest. Why was it impounded? I am not suspecting anything nefarious, but usually in a case like this a vehicle is not involved and thus not subject to impound. The fact that the Deputy did not remove her purse and cellphone from the car just to book them in to her property, likewise does not seem to be inappropriate, at least in my experience.

    As far as the aftermath, under Baca’s helm the Department and his top executives had no moral compass and anything could have happened as far as their clean-up (I cleaned-up that word)of the incident is concerned. As recent events in federal court have shown, anything is possible and I wish you best of luck in that regard.

    Long Gone

  • The Sheriff’s Union (alads) is just as embarrassing with the same modus operandi which is lying & denying. The only difference is that the damage only applies to the deputies.

  • Deputies were called to the restaurant because she was acting, in the words of the staff who called, “crazy”. She was saying she was from Mars, that she was there to avenge the death of Michael Jackson and various other unusual comments. She did not pay her bill according to her, “mother nature” will take care of it. The staff felt that she had a mental health issues and thought she was going to be taken to a hospital. The arresting officers called her a, “ding” and the arresting officer even stated in an email that he arrested her because he was concerned for her safety as she was acting, “ditzy”. It was not the jailer who said that she was going to be held until the morning, it was the deputy who answered the phone when her mother called. The arresting officer did not have to hard book her but he chose to – possibly for safety reasons as he indicated in his email. There is conflict about why she was arrested, her arrest reports say for defrauding an inkeeper and possession of marijuana but the officer tells different story as per his email.

    I do not know what information was passed on to whom because every one involved has a different story as you can imagine.

    Mitrice’s mother spoke to Lost Hills personnel once before Mitrice arrived at the jail (before 11pm) and in the 4am hour when she was on her way to the station to possibly pick her up. It was never clear what time she was going to be released on that it was going to be in the morning.

    As far as her car goes, no one is clear as to why her car was impounded. The restaurant says that cars are normally left in the parking lot when an arrest is made and they were confused as to why her car was impounded.

    As far as not booking in her purse, money, keys and phone – if she did not have those things with her she would be left helpless to fend for herself upon discharge with no money, no i.d. no phone.

    If you are interested in the full documentary let me know.


  • I hope the movie and a possible public AG report sheds more factual light on all this, the deputy’s arrest report, the vehicle impound report, etc.

    Having done the work, and watched persons who should have never been given the responsibility of doing the work, as evident by their COMPLETE lack of life experiences and compassion or empathy for the citizens they serve, I can only surmise some things from the articles:

    Its seems clear there was a Defrauding innkeeper, misdemeanor, 537 PC, and letter of the law was applied regarding it. Then, if she possessed identification, a letter of the law choice was made to book her at the station, to be processed and then released, instead of field releasing her on a citation. Its a choice by the arresting officer, its not required they field cite the misd. section, 853 PC. Is there any chance she didn’t posses ID? If she didn’t have ID, then the station booking is fairly common.

    Her car. I would like to see what the deputy documented as the legal cause for the search of it. The marijuana sounds like less than an ounce, 11357(b) HS, a shall cite misdemeanor at the time. A definite citation, unless again, she didn’t have ID. I’d be real interested in the inventory of the car. If things of any value are located (cell phone, cash, jewelry…), they shall be clearly listed on the inventory of the cars contents, and anything of significant value should be booked as prisoner property at the station. I beat the cause listed for impound is going to be 22651(h) CVC, driver arrested. Again, broad and letter of the law.

    Then there is the medical questionnaire form for the booking, which includes the psychological evaluation questions. What did that document the deputy filled out say?

    The problems with the mental health 72 hour evaluation issues, 5150 WIC, is that it comes down to what the deputy (law enforcement officer) sees during their interaction and questioning of the person contacted, not what they were told. There has been many times someone acted in a bizarre manner, law enforcement is called, and then during the actual follow up contact, the person doesn’t clearly demonstrate being gravely disabled, a danger to themselves or others, or unable to care for themselves. If they were told they were acting crazy, then they need to see continued behavior demonstrating it. I wonder if there is any good witnesses to her actual interaction with the deputies? Did the behavior continue? Were the deputies deposed for the civil suit? Is there depositions available? Curious….

    I can clearly see the dominoes of a legal letter of the law action applied. Completely cold and in-compassionate, but legal. Combined with laziness and lack of caring (the human factor), lack of thoughtful communications between off going and on coming staff, as shift hours normally change at 9pm, 10pm and 11pm.

    Then I can, very unfortunately, clearly see the complete idiocy of the “circling of the wagons” reactions of the administration of the station. Its a direct result of the decades of the Baca/Tanaka pay to play, friends of the Sheriff and friends of Paul, CRIMINAL complete gutting of the line supervision, sergeant and lieutenant, positions, then the command staff as these incompetents were moved along. No one with any job knowledge, true leadership ability (towards the character of a sworn oath to serve the public REASONABLY and COMPASSIONATELY). Two types, the ones who shouldn’t even be in the job, the CONVICTED THUG jail visiting sergeant type, or the one playing politics to move along and never learns anything, and could care less about learning and serving the public, its about serving Paul, and lesser times Leroy. And they are now the ones incapable of leading, mentoring, training the staff, or properly and bravely interceding on the public behalf when necessary.

    However, even saying the above, the way the scene was handle where she was found, UNBELIEVABLE. A basic trained person knows the scene is the corners. I hope those reports are made public. Are there depositions from those deputies, articulating WHY they took the actions they did. Where they disciplined for the incompetency? And then the Captain sitting on the video? There should be a criminal charge.

    Very sad circumstances. I hope the facts are presented clearly in the film and or the AG report, complete with the factual reports and forms completed as attachments. There should be a pretty hefty file of reports, the arrest, booking, LAPD and LASD reports regarding the missing, and then the locating of her.

    Dr. Hampton, Celeste, are there some of the above documents out there in Google land? I’m not finding them.


    DEAR #8. Some of what you’re talking about is available through California Public Records Act requests.. As for the rest Dr. Hampton would likely know better than I do which docs in this case might have been made public in one way or another in the last few years.


  • The following characters are liars and liabilities to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department based upon the coroner observations and report…..Captain Martin, (now commander) Captain Joseph Stephens,Lieutenant Scott Chew, Lieutenant Parsons and Deputy Loureiro and many more who (based upon interviews and evidence)appears to part of a scandal

  • I must admit that after reading Newsweek, Los Angeles Magazine and L.A.Weekly pertaining to this case …….it is pretty obvious that much of evidence is amiss amid a half-ass investigation. Totally unacceptable for LASD to act like nitwits on a Andy Griffith episode.

  • Dr. Ronda and Chip,

    Hope the screening at the Arclight tonight was a success, dearest Ronda. Congratulations to you and Chip. And many thanks to Alexander Nazaryan for a wonderful article.

    So many times people have asked me what is my interest in following the various Federal trials of the LASD downtown. When I tell them about the case of Mitrice, they don’t make the connection. The Newsweek article perfectly puts her case into the larger context of why and how things turned out as they did for poor Mitrice.

    No one, in life or death, has ever had two greater champions than you, Dr. Ronda and Chip. Bless you for all your hard work.

    Maybe one day we will know….

    Meanwhile, as slways, seding love from Malibu.

  • More controversy. Hey Dr Rhonda, why don’t you spend more time being a Dr. (If that’s what you really are) and be less concerned with tarnishing a great organization trying to rebuild. Mom will get her champagne and caviar pay out at some point and we can all move forward. The only error, letting the female leave during the em shift. That was a no no. Again, go back to your chosen profession, you want to change things, join the Department.

  • Dear Mr. Baca, Stonich, Waldie, Tanaka, Martin and all the rest: I know what we are asking is a lot. But, all (or one) of you need to come forward and do what is right. Sadly, all of you are terrified to step up and tell what you know. Years of reinforced and rewarded poor behavior has made all of you hard and uncaring. But, on the outside chance that goodness prevails may we impose on all of you to consider if this tragedy was happening to you? May God one day forgive you all?

  • How can Commander Rod Kusch fix his lips to say that the coroner “has not determined if this was a homicide” when the removal of the remains thwarted the investigation. That reasoning is totally preposterous. You don’t have to be a detective to see that this was a murder that was attempted to be covered up.

    LASD….Is this the best that you can do?

  • @ 14) It is IDIOTS such as yourself that tarnish the reputation of LASD. Any fool can say see the numerous so-called discretionary moves ultimately being discredited which began in Malibu and worked its way to Lost Hills Station. It’s clean up time for the department. Instead of drinking the “sweet tea” that you’re accustomed to during the recent hot weather, you need a gallon of STFU.

  • Dr. Hampton. Thank you for having the strength and fortitude to continue to carry on the valid attempt to find out what happened to your friend and what caused the end of her life. Not many have it in them to stay the course, as you have shown you are doing. I am VERY sorry the LASD’s utter incompetency has obviously muddy all the water and added to making a difficult situation even MORE difficult. Especially, as the lower percentage of likeliness, is LASD personnel being involved in some sinister criminal behavior that contributed directly to her demise. I base this comment on the 6:30am sighting of her. The idiocy of the stations command element to most likely being worried about embarrassing in-compassionate and laziness, that might have opened the LASD to a civil action and bad press, is incomprehensible.

    The LASD is the PUBLIC’s agency and is made better by continually evaluating occurrences. Many years ago, personnel were trained to to do this following EVERY priority matter conducted. It was called the “debrief”, and occurred in the field immediately following the incident with as many of the involved personnel as possible. It was a very valuable training and check and balance step. It lead to a much better competency level of YOUR deputies serving your community. It also lead to a deputy being confident enough to accept constructive criticism on a regular basis. This was very valuable, because with that type of confidence, it wasn’t hard for them to speak to someone in the public and admit to an honest action that wasn’t the best, and verbally settle things right then and there respectfully. Many will jump on and say we still do, but like all things, one: they will know their not being truthful, or two: they will believe what they are saying and not realize that they are mentally limping on the other leg, because the other ankle is sprained. It’s a training thing, and the one thing the LASD does BEST right now, and all during the Baca years, is NOT train. Especially recurrent and continual, as VERY necessary. Its one of the things Merrick Bobb got right all those years in his annual and special reports to the Board, LASD isn’t training.

    Many things have drastically impacted this. Money. Mismanagement of personnel. Ineffective results of law suits within the LASD, that have lead to in-effect fixes, all that started due to idiot and arrogant decisions by someone that should have probably never been in a command position. And, like so many of our public services, NO ONE, the worker or supervisor (to many of them) truly doing, or more importantly be checked on to make sure they are doing, what they are being paid to do, completely.

    I won’t belabor the already identified and proven Baca/Tanaka effect, only to say that their damage, if not corrected by identification and then isolation from leadership, followed by LOTS of training for EVERYONE, WILL plague our LASD from TRULY functioning well again, for a decade at least. Following World War II, the allies realized they had to use some Nazi’s that should have went on trial to put back on line and run the necessary public services they had the expertise’s in, transportation, water and power, etc. However, they were still Nazi’s and were culpable for their past actions. I can only pray this new LASD Sheriff has this in mind, and at some point isolates these personnel who committed criminal acts of fraud to obtain promotion and assist Tanaka in his criminal actions, many he will never be charged with, defrauding public funds, campaign law violations, etc.

    I know how many deputies from years ago would have handled this the next morning when Matrice’s Mom re-contacted the station. Common Sense seemed to be more common then, and I guess that played heavily into decent, compassionate, just doing right, behavior. They would have simple been honest about and acknowledged the mis-steps of phone calls and lack of passing on of information, that she wasn’t provided a ride back to her car, etc. Called the tow yard to see if she had picked up her car, and when found she hadn’t, sent some cars checking and asking across point A to point B, discovered the 6:30 am sighting, then worked a search from that point then. All well having the Mom sitting at the station using a phone to call any family that might have picked her up. And if the search went long, take the video and involved the media and public, station search and rescue activation, helicopters, search dogs, etc. Not that hard if you have the skills and knowledge, or a competent line supervisor to direct.

    #14. Over with….. I almost apologized to Dr. Hampton for your completely in-compassionate attitude and comments. Then I stopped myself in the hopes that you are not a LASD member and that I don’t have that responsibility, even though the odds, and my fear, is that you are. And if you are, here’s some debrief: A quick Google search will show you she is a Clinical Psychologist in good standing. Some news articles about Matrices case and some Y-Tube and news clips/videos will show why she has the proper, humane, feelings she has. I just started looking at this case as of Celeste piece the other day and figured all that out. As a human being, I will apologize, to everyone unfortunate enough to read your words, for your CRUEL quip regarding a pay out to the family.

    Be mad at the LASD personnel who tarnished, and continue to tarnish, this ONCE great agency. And there was a payout to the family of just under a million dollars, as there reasonably should have been. Probably attorneys fees along with it. Again, funds that could go for training. Lets put that were that belongs, with the inexperienced, uncaring, shouldn’t be there, LASD personnel, ESPECIALLY line supervisors and Station Captain, that created this situation that causes these questions to be raised and tarnish us.

    As far as rebuilding, I hope so. I pray there is some MASTER plan in play now that the new guy took a year to look at and learn the department. But, it appears to be, leave ALOT of the tainted supervision in place, allow the tainted command staff members to have promotional say, toss in a zero tolerance on EVERYTHING policy for the public’s eyes, relieve of duty as many as I can, fire as many as I can, again for the public, Board, and Feds eyes, and spend some money on making the uniform the way I like it.

    So the Baca and Tanaka-lites continue to make out, there’s no War Crimes Department for the MANY that suffered and were victimized for the last decade, that showed their character and did the job despite. In fact, the new guy told all those people, were moving on from this point forward when he came in. My humble opinion, bad idea, Sheriff, you didn’t even attempt to bandaged any of their wounds, you just left them open to infection. Some are going to horridly scar over, and some are NEVER going to heal. And YOU, as a REAL leader, should feel some responsibility to that. Or will you be proven to be just another politician. I pray not.

  • @#18 – It is quite plausible that much of what you have said is true regarding the possibility that the problem may actually be that there is merely a cover up of mistakes and nothing sinister. Unfortunately, the acts that followed her disappearance are problematic and do add to some concern. I am open to any possibility of what could have happened to her including your assessment. I do not believe; however, that she hiked the creek bed, took off her clothes and died of anaphylactic shock.

    As far as the department goes, trust me when I say it is because of well intention and compassionate members of the LASD that I remain steadfast and have much of the knowledge of the department that has assisted me in having some understanding of what went on with Mitirce during her arrest and disappearance and I truly thank those officers as I am sure that they assisted me with great risk.

    No need to apologize for the remarks of #14, he/she is an amateur compared to what I am accustomed to on this matter. I do not have the energy to try to tarnish the department nor do I have arrogance to think I have that much power, my only concern is Mitrice and doing my small part in ensuring that this does not happen to anyone else.


  • #14; OMG, HOW UNSPEAKABLY RUDE YOU ARE!!! I don’t know where to begin. How about responding to each of your misstatements:

    1) Uh, yes, Dr. Hampton is a REAL Doctor.

    2) She didn’t tarnish the LASD. They did that all by themselves.

    3) Mitrice’s mother and father split a meager monetary award…nothing like the millions payed out to other victims of LASD.

    4) You clearly know NOTHING of this case. The release of Mitrice is only one of DOZENS of things where procedure was not followed.

    5) If you really want to help “mend” the Department, why don’t YOU consider quitting. That would be a step in the right direction.

    What’s more, while Dr. Ronda has almost single handedly taken on the LASD in her vigilant and untiring efforts on Mitrice’s behalf, she has always done so with kindness, courtesy and class. Something the Department could use a little more of.

  • It appears to me that this so called Dr. Is in fact trying to sweep more dirt onto the LASD driveway. Here are some facts Dr. The departed did in fact commit a crime. It is the Deputy’s option whether to cite the person out (especially with prop 47 in effect). Being a Clinical Psycologist, I’m sure you are aware that the mentally impaired often act crazy until the Law shows up. Her arrest was valid. She was booked at the Sheriff’s Station, as she should have been. As someone mentioned earlier, she was later cited out and left the Station at an EM hour. There is the issue, she should not have been released at the EM hour without a ride. She later wandered off and unfortunately got lost, subsequently meeting her demise. If the Deputies felt she had a mental issue, I am confident they would have dealt with it appropriately. Although tragic, stop trying to search for fault in many when a few are involved. There is no conspiracy here. I pray for all those being investigated in this manner. And Dr, stick to being a Dr, you have know clue what are Deputies do for a living. There has already been a settlement in this matter. FIN

  • Celeste, I just finished the Newsweek article and must question the your statement that Baca is not a evil? Just “obvious oblivious?” That ignores the fact that he was told over and over that Tanaka was a cancer. There was a regular parade of soon-to-be executives going in to his office and telling him that Tanaka was a cancer and ruining the LASD. Celeste, he ignored then because he CHOSE to be oblivious! It is easy to blame Tanaka and most do – he has plenty to take the blame for! But the truth is that the LASD’s downfall started the moment that Baca and his inner circle were high-fiving (an embarrassment in and of itself) on-stage during his first swearing in. Paul Tanaka, for sure was a Baca insider but, as a Lieutenant, had little power for a number of years. The corruption started from day one with pay-to-play promotions for those who supported Baca during the his first election – no matter their qualifications nor abilities. Then he moved on with the hiring of his “Field Deputies” who were nothing more than his personal community activists hired to gather support for Baca’s next election – paid for by County taxpayers. No need to mention that one of these “Field Deputies” was having drugs delivered to his church, nor that narco dogs “hit” on his car when it was turned in. Then there was unheralded take-over of the Asian Crime Task Force by a Baca hand-picked DEPUTY who was to decide which crimes and criminals would and would NOT be investigated – another political payoff. And there was the “Special Deputy Program” where Baca was giving out badges and guns like they were beads being thrown off a mardi gras float – until a few of the recipients got their upper torso in a wringer and the program had to be acknowledged and cancelled. Then there was a manipulation of the jail’s food vendor contract – which was wrangled away from a long-time vendor and given to a Baca supporter.. Then there was misappropriation of Inmate Welfare funds for projects well outside of the scope of the fund’s intent – the fund is comprised of what is essentially INMATE money (from the sale of commissary items and phone calls) and is supposed to be spent on projects that benefit inmates. Baca had other ideas of what would benefit the inmate’s welfare – some of which the inmates never saw nor had any benefit of. Then there was the request by Baca for President Clinton to pardon convicted drug kingpin Carlos Vignali, whose father, Horacio Vignali – a LA real estate developer, just happened to be a Baca cronie and contributor. And these are just a few off the top of my head – no need to get in to small stuff like Parris Hilton or Mel Gibson.

    Getting to the point at hand and is typical of Baca, in the LA Magazine story linked from the Newsweek article, Baca meets with Matrice’s mother and tells her that the FBI had agreed to examine the body. Matrice’s mother later found out that the FBI never made such an agreement. Anyone who has worked with Lee Baca does not doubt for a moment that he lied to the mom. The man will say anything without regard for the truth. I feel for Ms. Richardson’s family to have had to deal with such a scoundrel and there is also no doubt in my mind that he gave them lip service when he told them he “thought it should have been treated from the outset as a possible homicide.” Well, he’s the Sheriff. The LASD Homicide Bureau works for him. Did they EVER treat this like a possible homicide – before or AFTER he made the statement? Did they take a “fresh look” at the case? If not, I guess my case is made? Celeste, I consider lying to Matrice’s mother about her daughter’s case being something beyond “oblivious.” I also consider all the misleading statements that his personal spokesman, Steve Whitmore (who was hired by Baca because Baca admired Whitmore’s actor-father), not to be the statements of someone whose boss is oblivious to what is going on. From the moment it was realized at Lost Hills that Matrice Richardson’s release was mishandled and the press was applying heat, Baca and his top executives were orchestrating this thing like it was the philharmonic orchestra.

    Celeste, none of this involved Tanaka, every bit of this was Baca and Baca alone. Not some sort of screw-up by underlings. Yes, he allowed Tanaka a free hand, but this is all his doing. I admit he chased his share of windmills all over the world (and space), but he came down to earth long enough to show that he is indeed, evil and without scruples.

  • @21… You are most correct when you state that, “you have know clue what are Deputies do for a living.” To that end all I have is questions.

    1. Why did the officers at the scene observe her behavior, call her a “ding” and not have her evaluated for mental health issues?

    2. Why did they release her in the middle of the night knowing that her car had been towed and that her phone, money, and purse were in her car?

    3. Why did the department claim that she made phone calls from the jail when she in fact made no phone calls?

    4. Why did the captain of the department lie and claim there was no video of her at the station only to admit in a meeting that he had it in his desk the entire time?

    5. Why did the arresting officer admit to his superior that he arrested her because she was acting “ditzy” and that he was concerned for her safety but not have her evaluated?

    6. Why did the detectives remove her body against he orders of the coroners?

    7. Why were her clothing not taken to the crime lab to be evaluated, but instead placed in the body bag to be buried?

    8. Why did the station first claim that they had to kick her out of the jail because they were full and had not space to keep her?

    9. Why did the station claim she made a phone call from the lobby pay phone, when there was no pay phone in the lobby?

    I could go on but I think you get my point. I do not know what happened to her, I do not know what was on the minds of the deputies and I do not understand the anger towards me for just trying to understand what happened.


    Dear “Long Gone but still care,”

    If you look closely at the paragraph, you’ll see the words you quoted were not actual quotes from me. The things that I said are in quotes. If they’re out of quotes, it’s the writer doing his very best to capture what he thought I said out of a very long and wide ranging conversation about Baca, Tanaka and the department. (I’m not faulting the author Alex Nazaryan. He’s an excellent reporter, but I tend to talk fast, and when you’re talking notes and not recording, it can get difficult. You do your best and pray you got it right.)

    I don’t for a minute think that Baca was oblivious. I agree with you wholeheartedly. When he was blind to things, it was a very willful blindness. He denied what he didn’t like and ignored and/or was retaliatory toward those who brought him bad news.

    Everything you list, I agree with: the completely corrupt notion of the “field deputies,” the misappropriation of the inmate welfare fund, the denial of all that was wrong in the jails, the power he gave Tanaka, and the refusal to see what PT was doing, although he was told endlessly, by an array of people, sworn and non sworn. The push for the Vignali pardon, and other loathsome forms of favoritism for the wealthy, his actions regarding the Mitrice Richardson case. And on and on and on.

    In truth, I think Baca’s a complicated person, and tragic in many ways. AND he caused terrible, terrible damage—all by his own hand. However, “evil,” is not a word I’d use in relationship to him. But that’s a personal choice, not an assessment of the toxic and destructive nature of his actions.

    I hope what I’m writing now, in book form, captures that complexity without pulling any punches, and I welcome any thoughts, information, anecdotes that will help me to do the most truthful and factual job possible.

    Thanks for your comment. It’s helpful.


    PS: If you know anything about the food vender contract thing, email me. I stared at that for a long time, a couple of years ago and it looks….wrong. But I don’t have all the puzzle pieces.

  • @ 21 In the Know: The thing is, you DON’T know! 1, 2, maybe even 5 or 6 deviations from procedure MIGHT still be considered just a f- up. Mitrice Richardson’s case is much more like a cover up. That is why the Department is so tight lipped and defensive whenever her case is mentioned.

    Dr. Hampton wouldn’t waste her time “..trying to sweep more dirt on the LASD driveway.” Unecessary! It was plenty dirty on its own. More like LASD is doing a little sweeping of its own, as in under the rug.

    Please, before ANY of you post again about that which you THINK you KNOW, first bother to read the Newsweek article, read the
    L A Magazine article (the most comprehensive to date) and go see the film.

    Dr. Hampton’s modest list of aberrations in response to your post doesn’t even BEGIN to address ALL of the mistakes, mishandling and lying attendant to this case.

    An overall observation but I’m actually kind of shocked that for some reason Dr. Hampton’s advocacy for Mitrice Richardson really touches a nerve with so many of you. Geez, why so personal and why are you sooo defensive and feel the need to castigate a devoted mentor and learned professional? Hmmm, afraid of an intelligent woman?

    Instead of just spouting party line about how precious procedure was perfectly followed and every decision made was by the book, why don’t you educate yourselves about this case, as “WOW and Wondering @18” and “Long Gone @22” clearly have done.

    If afterward you still have no doubt Lost IN THE Hills is blameless, well then, maybe you DO KNOW something afterall and should come forward. After all, you’re “In the Know.”

    Methinks Thou dost protest too much.

  • Celeste,
    With all due respect to you, this might be a good time to simply admit that like the rest of the LA Media, you were wrong about Baca.
    Baca got a pass for a long LONG time from the “Watchdogs” in the LA media because he appeared—-how did you put it? “Warm and caring” I believe it was.
    Like Long Gone said, the scandals and evidence were there from the beginning concerning the New Age Progressive Sheriff. It was obvious to anybody who cared to view his behavior with even a modicum of objectivity that Baca was not only a train wreck waiting to happen, but also a scandalous politician abusing his power. Nobody in the LA media cared. As long as Baca talked his progressive game he got a pass. Baca’s incompetence, mental instability, excessive absenteeism, flagrant abuses of power and scandals didn’t seem to be an issue.
    Until Tanaka came along.
    All of a sudden everybody got their panties in a bunch. All of a sudden it was time to take a serious look at the way the LASD was doing things.
    Is Baca “Evil”? That depends on who you ask. That is debatable.
    Here’s three facts that are not debatable.
    1.The LA media looked the other way for years concerning Baca.
    2.Tanaka was only able to seize control of the LASD because Baca was a scandalous, delusional, absentee sheriff.
    3. Not one member of the LA media has admitted that they got it wrong re: Baca.

  • @ #22, “Long Gone”: Love your posts. It sounds like you’re one of the good guys, who through experience has learned to keep an open mind. It also appears you like to read.

    Celeste didn’t mention it in her EDITOR’S NOTE reply to you, but may I steer you to her excellent article in L A Magazine (May 14, 2015) entitled The Downfall of Sheriff Baca, if you haven’t already read it. Excellent insight and portrayal on the making of the man. You’ll see that your take and hers are not far apart.

    Can’t wait for your new book, Celeste.

  • #24 (Celeste): “I hope what I’m writing now, in book form….”

    Any idea when the book’ll be out?

    If you can give an ETA I’ll go down to the book store right now & put my name on the ordering list.

  • The news media bear responsibility for years of posing as lap dogs to Sheriff Lee Baca

    But the problem doesn’t stop there.

    In the case of Mitrice Richardson, the adult citizens of L.A. County have earned their rightful share of blame –
    for engaging in popular mass cognitive dissonanance and for a stupefying lack of awareness and absence of critical thinking bordering on mental retardation.

    Its time for everyone to grow up and stop all the babytalk.

    Captain Martin almost certainly never had the Mitrice Richardson booking tape tucked away in his desk.
    In all likelyhood, that is simply what Captain Martin was directed to say following the period in which he was directed to deny the existance of any recording of Ms. Richardson’s custody.

    Sheriff Baca made no attempt to conceal his generous reward for Martin’s compliance in the obstruction, the obfuscation, the entire demeaning sordid charade or whatever you want to call it.

    In the real world of September 2009, I dont think the Sheriff is running tape or removeable media to live record surveillance on the custody booking cage.

    Its going to be live record to internal hard drive which can access for download to removeable media.

    Would Captain Martin dupe off a DVD of Mitrice Richardson for himself?
    No, he wouldn’t touch that with a pole.

    Martin told us he kept the Mitrice Richardson booking tape in his desk, but the place it actually surfaced was in Lee Baca’s office at SHB.

    I believe Sheriff Baca sent a technician to Lost Hills Station to remove hard drives from all the surveillance recording devices. The drives were delivered to the custody of Sheriff Baca and placed inside the safe in his office.

    Right alongside the bottle of Mel Gibson’s tequila.

  • Dr. Ronda, perhaps the California AG would like to serve a Grand Jury subpoena on Baca and really get deep, deep into the weeds about all of these issues. I don’t think Baca wants to lie in an investigation, again. You might get lucky and get some real answers this time around. Baca may very well give up the ghost this time.

  • Dr. Ronda –

    I don’t know that Baca had all the hard drives removed from surveillance recording devices at Lost Hills Station, but I believe its the most logical and likely description of what happened given everything else known to this point.

      I don’t hold nor do i have access to any information at a level that qualifies for admission as evidence at trial or for which I could be called to testify.

    What i do have:
    – my personal life experiences which inform me on certain aspects of this case.
    – anything learned from my reading, listening to available information.
    – a memory for detail and a sceptical outlook.

    I’m an armchair participant.
    I’m personally invested in following, pondering, discussing and commenting upon the developments of this case.
    In some aspects, this allows me to become more effective than someone closer to the people and events at hand.

    For there to be justice there must be truth.
    The mission – defeat the liars and their lies, bring forward the truth.

    At one time, some who know me felt i displayed an irrational obsession with this case. They were concerned for my mental health.
    I reassured them – my obsession was real. And my sanity as solid as ever.

    When it was first announced that remains recovered in malibu were those of mitrice richardson, i posted a comment to the Los Angeles Times speculating the sheriff department had violated proper forensic protocol in their treatment of the site and recovery of the remains.

    Of the 150-250 comments posted to that particular article, i was the only person posing doubts about LASD in that regard.

    3-4 weeks later, the news from the Coroner about the handling of the remains confirmed my suspicions. And my friends, who stood on the cusp of estrangement, came to me with apology and a renewed measure of respect.

    When LASD says this about Mitrice Richardson:
    “we may never know exactly what happened”

    what they really mean is :
    “we control access to information, investigation and evidence on this case. You can’t see it and we are locking it away. So get used to it and go away.”

    My response to that is –
    If LASD refuses to follow their duty and they instead choose to obstruct, then we will solve the puzzle without their help.

    We will take the available pieces and configure them to most logically and rationally account for the known and the unexplained.

    All new developments/information are considered and integrated as we move closer to the truth.

    This process may entail  accusations or unverified assumptions which involve a negative portrayal of LASD or Lee Baca.
    Too bad for them, because that is the cost to LASD and Lee Baca of the position they have taken with Mitrice Richardson.

    We don’t have the names and dates and identification numbers in the format admissible as trial evidence.
    However, i do believe that as long as we are bold and truly care,
    then information already available allows us to solve the entire case surrounding the disappearance and death of Mitrice Richardson to a level of confidence exceeding 90%.

    Here is something which is 100% certain –

    The official Richardson investigation should accurately list all of the surveillance recording equipment at Lost Hills, the procedures used for its operation/maintenance and the policy on duplication and storage of files.

    If that information is not covered, then the real investigation of this case has never even begun.

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