It’s been more than three months since David Robinson’s son, a 24-year-old geologist working in Arizona, vanished without a trace after leaving his job site. Since then, the devastated dad—who’s never given up searching for his child, Daniel Robinson—has grown frustrated by the police’s response.
“If the [police] stepped up to the plate, I wouldn’t be standing here now,” David Robinson said Sunday, during a press conference in Arizona that he hoped would bring more attention to the unsolved case.
Daniel Robinson, a Black geologist, went missing in Buckeye, Arizona, on June 23 after leaving work. A rancher found his vehicle—which had his phone, wallet, and keys inside—in a ravine a few miles away from the job site in July. Since then, there’s been no sign of Daniel.
According to the young man’s frustrated family members, the police department’s efforts haven’t been thorough enough. They wish their loved one’s case would get the attention white Long Island native Gabby Petito’s has, and they feel that race has been a factor in the response to Daniel’s case.
“They need to do their part when it comes to urgency and not treat my son’s disappearance in a nonchalant attitude,” David Robinson told The Daily Beast.
At the Sept. 26 press conference, they urged the police to do more to find Daniel.
“It took me three months to look at my son’s picture. I’d just seen his car. It took me three months to look at his car,” Daniel’s mother, Melissa Edmonds, told the crowd as she fought back tears. “You thought you felt pain, try looking for your child and not knowing where he is.”
Over the last three months, David Robinson has launched his own search efforts for his son, traveling to Arizona from his home in South Carolina and even hiring a private investigator to help.
He said he first called the police about Daniel’s disappearance on June 23 and was told he had to wait 72 hours before officially filing a missing person report. He believes that because of that, the police lost critical time to find his son.
“It took three days until they started the search,” he told The Daily Beast.
At first, Robinson was hopeful they were doing all they could to find Daniel, as an officer with the department told him they were going to use a helicopter to search the area.
“He had gone out and searched the area. ...They were going to try and get a helicopter out there in the morning,” David Robinson said.
But the next morning, the officer called him back and told him the flight was canceled, he said.
“He said the higher-ups said, ‘It’s because your son is a grown man, and if he wants to leave he can leave.’ They won’t authorize it,” Robinson explained.
“I knew right then, I needed to come here and find my son.”
Robinson has now been in Arizona since June 25—and he hasn’t given up hope.
“My aim is to stay here until I find [my son],” he said.
Robinson has conducted over seven weeks of independent searches with the help of volunteers from all over Arizona, cadaver dogs, and drones. He’s launched social media campaigns and worked with the private investigator to try and find a trace of his missing son.
“As long as they can keep it as a missing person, [the police] don’t have to actually go look because he’s an adult,” David explained. “They don’t have to spend a lot of resources because he’s an adult. If they turn it into a possible criminal case for instance, then they have to actually do some work. I can’t get them to change that narrative despite all of the evidence my investigator gave them.”
Jeff McGrath, the private investigator that Robinson hired, said he doesn’t rule out foul play in the crash of Daniel’s Jeep, as he believes there’s evidence the car was pushed into the ravine. McGrath also said he found one of Daniel’s socks three miles from where the vehicle was recovered.
Police, on the other hand, say that Daniel’s vehicle appeared to have rolled off the side of a cliff and have ruled out foul play based on the conditions of the vehicle after being found.
In a partially released report, Buckeye police list Daniel Robinson as a missing person. The 54-page report also notes that cops made efforts to locate Daniel on June 23, 24, and 25. It says that one of Daniel’s co-workers told authorities that he was behaving oddly the day that he went missing and that he was only at the worksite for around 15 minutes before leaving.
The primary investigator on the case spoke with family members, other coworkers, and friends about his whereabouts. Because large rainstorms had occurred in the area, police said they may have washed away vehicle tracks. The detective also determined that Daniel had not spent a lengthy amount of time in the car after it had crashed.
The Buckeye police department told The Daily Beast on Monday that investigators plan to meet with an outside expert to conduct a more thorough analysis of the data from Daniel’s vehicle in the coming days.
Robinson said his own independent search efforts have been stalled by a lack of resources, so he started a petition to push cops to devote more time to his son’s case.
“I’ve been forced to start a petition so that [Buckeye police] could start searching for my son again,” he said.
Robinson believes that race has played a role in what he deems to be the police department’s inadequate response to his son’s disappearance.
“I know it did,” he said. “I didn’t want to admit that. You want the world to look a certain way, and you want to feel a certain way in life.”
Not only has Daniel’s family suffered from his disappearance, but they also say they’ve been shattered by racial abuse in the aftermath. While David Robinson checked the area where Daniel’s Jeep allegedly fell into a ravine, a group of white men in a pickup truck drove by yelling racial slurs at him, he alleged. David said he recounted the incident to someone who lived in the Buckeye area, who told him to take his family and leave.
Robinson also claimed that he’s received death threats that he’s alerted the FBI about.
“I got people saying all kinds of things, like, ‘I got your son. I’ll break his legs.’ Down to: ‘We’re watching you. We want to see some bloodshed.’ People don’t know half the stuff that I have to deal with, especially racism type of stuff,” he said.
Robinson said he immediately sympathized with Gabby Petito’s family after hearing about her disappearance. He recognized that she was around his son’s age and that her family must be going through a similar nightmare.
On Sunday, Robinson said the Petito case “should be a template for how missing person’s cases are handled in this country.”
“But this just happened and it’s on national news. It’s on CNN; this is running all day,” he told The Daily Beast. “I’ve been out here for three months and had to start from scratch. I didn’t know nobody. I had to put a search together that became more technical, have a website, two websites, trying to put things out, trying to get some attention, just trying to get Buckeye to do more than what they were doing.
“It kind of dawned on me later on that race does play a part. When you’re Black, you have to work twice as hard for everything... That’s what’s happening here: I had to work twice as hard to get media attention,” he said.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with a Buckeye police report detailing search efforts on June 23, 24, and 25.
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