UPDATE: New details throughout . . .
"It is to my sadness and disappointment I am reporting to you it is the confirmed remains of Mitrice Richardson," Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca just said at a news conference this morning about the bones found Monday in the Malibu mountains.
Extensive forensic investigation of the skeletal remains confirmed they were those of the former Cal State Fullerton student and Miss Fullerton contestant.
Baca was combative as he took tough questions from reporters about the appropriateness of confirming the woman's death to her father at the 9:30 a.m. news conference and her release from the sheriff's lockup.
Richardson was 24 when she was last seen leaving the Lost Hills sheriff's station in Malibu in the early morning hours of September 17, 2009. She was released without a car, money, identification or assistance.
She had been arrested the night before for allegedly not paying for her meal at an upscale restaurant and generally acting bizarre. Her 1990 Honda Civic was impounded.
After she went missing, her family revealed the college honors graduate suffered from mental health issues and should have been kept at the sheriff's station until a relative arrived to pick her up.
Baca sought to deflect his department from such criticism, saying if anything in the Richardson case points to needed reforms, it is arrests made at the urging of restaurant owners. The sheriff said Richardson had been placed under citizen's arrest by the eatery's owner before deputies were called.
Richardson's mother and father have filed separate lawsuits against the LA County sheriff; the mom's was a wrongful death complaint before her daughter's body was found.
However, their hopes that Richardson would be found alive rose amid what authorities described as "70 credible reports" that she had been spotted in Las Vegas--including that from an ex-boyfriend who said he spoke with her there.
Baca said he poured "extensive resources" into following up on the Las Vegas leads and working with the metropolitan police there.
Richardson's dad previously said he had been assured when the remains were originally found that they were not his daughter's.
There were earlier reports the skeletal remains were found several miles from where Richardson was last seen. But Baca said it was his understanding they were found by a park ranger in a former marijuana grove about two miles from the Lost Hills station.
Richardson's mother was informed this morning the remains were Mitrice's, but her father was not told by authorities until Baca walked into the press conference and expressed his condolences on his way to the podium.
Richardson's family said she graduated from CSUF in 2008 with a 4.0 and was set to begin a doctoral program.
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Despite suffering from a bi-polar disorder, she also cared for her great-grandmother.
Her answer to the question from the 2007 Miss Fullerton pageant below is chilling.
If only she had a cell phone that night: