"Mitrice Richardson, age 24, went missing after she was released from the Malibu police station at about 1 a.m. Thursday September 17th. She suffers from mental health issues and was released into the remote Malibu canyon area without a car, I.D, phone, money or assistance. Mitrice is an upstanding citizen and student and deserves better treatment than what the Malibu sheriff's gave. This did not have to happen. Mitrice is a CAL STATE FULLERTON graduate with a 4.0 GPA and is set to begin a doctoral program."

It has been almost a year. A year of unanswered questions, with the one question asked most often...Where is she?

Answers have been few and far between. Communications have continued. Until today. The coroner confirmed that the remains found in the Malibu Canyon were those of Mitrice Richardson.

I have been following the case of Mitrice Richardson for a while. Watching for updates and information leading to finding her. As her family held press conferences, vigils and searches...to no avail.

With recent alleged sightings in Las Vegas by a former schoolmate, it seemed as if she had decidedly vanished on her own accord. The police/news stated it was a good lead. And anonymous people on the internet started slamming the parents on their helpsite and other news threads. Calling them bad parents, controlling, etc. saying no wonder she ran off. The same things you read on so many other websites containing this type of story.

In the past I have been involved in the search for lost children. When you volunteer for this type of job it has one of two endings, you find the child safe or you find the child's remains. Then there is the never ending vigil, where you don't find anything and the family has to suffer through not knowing if they are still alive or dead. I have seen all of the above. In recent times most of us have witnessed it on television. As a volunteer, you are not necessarily personally involved, you don't always know the family, you are simply there to help and support and most of all hope to find the child safe.

For myself, I could not even imagine nor fathom the pain these families go through when something like this happens. Then to have strangers throwing judgments about your parenting based on what they see on a news clip or a briefing. In a moment of panic people react differently. Some cry, some get angry, some even smile. It's a moment that has been described to me as surreal. Unbelievable...it can't be happening to me.

In one case the outcome was not good, and one morning as I was picking up papers to fill out to search, volunteers were told to return the papers, they would not be needed for the day. People stayed at the sight anyway. Waiting. We found out about an hour or so later that remains had been found. People broke down. Sure most didn't know the family, but the mental toughness and emotion it takes to search, takes a toll. You have the chance at finding something you may not be ready to witness. I have had to think about this each time. Will I be able to deal with what I may come across? And when it's over you have to decompress.

I've witnessed many reactions when there has been a loss, people are sad, break down, cry, get angry at the "person" that caused this to happen. But when the child was found safe. There was a very different emotion, some were definitely happy, excited for the family. Even concerned that physically and emotionally the child was fine. Yet others are angry and judgmental. Some ask to be paid, some ask for reasons and I even read where someone wanted medical proof that something physical happened to a young girl, so as to validate the time the "volunteer" spent e-mailing people.

When you do volunteer, you have to know that it is out of compassion. Not for pay, not for glory, not for fame or heroism. It's to help a family get "closure", though I am not sure that is the best way to say it, it seems to be the accepted way.

I have only been a personal friend to one family of a child that was missing, and it was very difficult. A lot of fear went through me. I hoped and prayed for a positive outcome, and her family was lucky. She came home safe. Highly chastised by the public and press, but safe.

With Mitrice Richardson, I am not a friend of the immediate family, but a friend of a dedicated volunteer and close family friend. And I can only have compassion and sympathy at what they are now facing. They have Mitrice back, but they will again have to go through more emotional turmoil knowing she is passed. Not knowing the circumstance...not knowing. I do hope they find some comfort in knowing, that many people who did volunteer, did so cause they care and are sending condolences and prayers for the family and Mitrice. She will not be forgotten.

Now the question is Why?...Why did this have to happen? I doubt there will ever be an answer that creates an inner peace for her family...given time they may come to live with the outcome.

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