The actions of the deputies may have "undermined the thoroughness" of the investigation, in addition to violating the law, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Ed Winter, assistant chief coroner, said that he was "very clear" with officials when it came to not touching the remains. He went on to say that he could not think of any other case where a law enforcement agency would move skeletal remains without the permission of the coroner.
A spokesperson from the sheriff's department confirmed that the remains had been moved, but said the reason was because of ensuing darkness and over concern that animals would destroy the remains.
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Mitrice Richardson, 24, went missing in September of 2009 after being released from the sheriff's Lost Hills/Malibu station. She left around midnight without a car, purse or cell phone. Remains were found in an abandoned marijuana patch in early August, and were confirmed as being Richardson's three days later.
After Richardson's entire skeleton was discovered, Winter told detectives not to touch it, and that he had "never given authorization to pick up entire skeletal remains."
Winter said that sheriff's officials consented and that he was shocked to hear just minutes later that the bones had been lifted into a helicopter and were headed back to the station.