So by now if you haven’t been living under a rock you know that a lot was made out of the fact that Michael Richardson, Mitrice’s father wasn’t properly notified prior to the start of the press conference on Thursday announcing the confirmation of his daughter’s death.
The Sheriff’s and the Coroner’s office maintain that they contacted Michael via his phone’s voicemail and made contact with Mitrice’s mother Latice via phone.
First, let’s be clear. While I am happy that they were able to reach one of Mitrice’s parents, her mother Latice, they had a duty to reach the other one, that being Michael, her father.
The Sheriff’s office as well as the Coroner’s office were both aware that Mitrice’s parents are separated, that’s no secret. And while many of us in the media, both mainstream and Black, as well as in the community tried our best to cover up their relationship for fear that others in the media as well as the Sheriff’s would use this to divert attention away from the search for Mitrice and their mishandling of her case, when you’ve got two lawyers, two lawsuits, two websites, and two people who aren’t on speaking terms, it’s kind of difficult. Add to that, white people in law enforcement for the most part just don’t know how to deal with two Black parents who are separated but both care about their daughter. Naturally, they gravitated towards the mother throughout this entire process up until the very end. Partially I believe because she’s the mother and also because I think she comes off as being less threatening than Michael who is at the end of the a Black man angry about his daughter’s disappearance and now death. Add to that, most whites in law enforcement are used to Black fathers being deadbeat dads and M.I.A.
But be that as it may, that doesn’t negate the fact that he’s her biological father and he had a relationship with her. And let’s say for arguments sake that he didn’t have a relationship Mitrice, at the end of the day he is and still remains Mitrice’s next of kin under California law.
Next of kin is the term with many interpretations depending on the jurisdiction being referred to. In some jurisdictions, such as the United States, it is used to describe a person’s closest living blood relative or relatives.
“American statutes typically provide that, in absence of issue and subject to the share of a surviving spouse, intestate property passes to the parents or to the surviving parent of the decedent.” Under the civil law system of computation and its various modified forms that are widely adopted by statute in the United States, “a claimant’s degree of kinship is the total of (1) the number of the steps, counting one from each generation, from the decedent up to the nearest common ancestor of the decedent and the claimant, and (2) the number of steps from the common ancestor down to the claimant.” “The claimant having the lowest degree count (i.e., the nearest or next of kin) is entitled to the property.” “If there are two or more claimants who stand in equal degree of kinship to the decedent, they share per capita.”
“Of multiple relations with the same degree, those connecting through a nearer ancestor are more closely related to the descendent (i.e. via last name).”
Under these rules, an order of precedence is established. Here are the first few in the order (specifically, those up to degree 6):
- Great Grandparent
- Great Niece/Great Nephew
- Great-Great Grandchild
- First Cousin
- Great Aunt/Great Uncle
- Great-Great Grandparent
- Great-Great Grandchild
- First Cousins Once Removed (the children of first cousins and descendants of Grandparents)
- First Cousins Once Removed (the descendants of Great-Grandparents)
- Great-Grand Uncles/Aunts
- Great-Great-Great Grandchild
- Great-Great-Great Grandparent
- First Cousin Twice Removed (the descendants of Grandparents)
- Second Cousin
- First Cousin Twice Removed (the descendant of Great-Great Grandparent)”
Now here’s why it was important for the Coroner to make contact with Michael before allowing the Sheriff’s Department to hold a press conference
The Sheriff’s knew that Michael was Mitrice’s next of kin. That is why they would only release her vehicle and belongings to Michael last year and not to her mother. So it was no secret who the next of kin was. Michael should not have found out about Mitrice’s death the way in which he did. The Sheriff’s and the Coroner’s office should have held off on the press conference until he could be reached.
You see Michael takes the Metro Red Line to work. So at about the time that the Coroner’s office was calling him, he was underground unable to receive calls riding the train. By the time he came up from the train and had a signal, I was calling him and assumed he had already been contacted, sadly that was not the case.
Sheriff Lee Baca was very testy with reporters at the press conference when pressed about this issue and Ed Winter of the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office took great pleasure it seemed in announcing that Latice Sutton had been called as well as Michael and shortly there after the media had been tipped off. Somehow insinuating that one or the other had tipped off the media to Mitrice’s death and that it was not the Sheriff’s Department or the Coroner’s office, who had a security hold on the information.
Yes, someone had tipped off the media and we knew it wasn’t Michael because the Coroner had never made contact with him. They just left a voicemail and considered that notification.
All the way around, the way it went down was unfortunate. It was unfortunate that Latice’s good friend Dr. Rhonda Hampton felt that it was more important to call KFI 640 AM and tell Brian Holt, the producer of the Bill Carroll show than to wait first and make sure that everyone in Mitrice’s family knew. It was unfortunate that Michael wasn’t properly notified of his daughter’s death from authorities who continuously overlook or ignore that fact he’s Mitrice’s father and next of kin. He’s not her deadbeat father, he’s her father and always has been. I kind of feel that the authorities did this on purpose because they knew that Mitrice’s parents were not on speaking terms. They knew that if they told one the news that unless they called the other one, they were not going to find out from the other. They knew this and went ahead with the press conference anyway.
I write this because I know there are a lot of fathers who have been treated the same way. I write this because my own parents are much like Mitrice’s parents. My dad and I are Cannick’s, my mom who has since remarried, has a new last name. My parents detest each other, although to be fair, I think my mom has much more hate for my dad than he her. Since I don’t have any children, my dad is my next of kin. I would hate it if something happened to me or my sisters and my parents couldn’t put their dislike of each other on the back burner to come together to take care of business.
So let this be a lesson to the separated and divorced parents of minor and adult children. At some point you have to let it go and come together for a bigger cause, your children in situations like this. No matter how painful, how bitter your feelings, or how much you hate the other. No one wins when you can’t. And while chances are the outcome would have still be the same even if her parents would have worked together, for those in the community who wanted to get involved but didn’t because they weren’t sure what “side” to pick, not that they should have had to pick a side to begin with, it would have made it that much harder for the Sheriff’s and the Coroner’s office to play her parents against each other all the until the end.
What we ended up here with is two parents, two camps of supporters, two lawyers, two lawsuits, two websites, two press conferences, two services, and one dead child.
And I have to really ask, was it worth it? Was it worth holding onto the pain, bitterness, and hatred while the authorities played each parent against the other, all the way to the end? I don’t think so, especially when the same authorities, after being attacked and criticized in the media, have the nerve to then want to come back and blame the mother for not picking up her daughter.
So I ask who really got played?
All I know is that Mitrice is still gone and now when the need is greatest for two parents to come together, one is planning a funeral and the other a community vigil.
Is this what Mitrice would have really wanted?