Part I of Series
More on the continued search for Daniel Robinson is covered in next issues.
By Dee Ford Byas
A $10,000 reward is offered for any information on the whereabouts of Daniel Robinson, 24, who went missing more than two months ago from a remote Buckeye, Arizona, worksite.
The Arizona Informant received exclusive details regarding the status of search efforts to locate the young geologist who was last seen leaving his job site near Sun Valley and Cactus Road on June 23.
From having allegedly walked off the job and not showing up to having “walked off naked into the desert and joined a monastery to become a monk,” the family is steadfast in efforts to find their loved one and get the truth about what happened, causing Daniel Robinson’s prolonged disappearance.
As of Monday, Aug. 23, there were no further updates available from the Buckeye Police Department, according to Zachary Astrup, a sergeant and patrol/bike squad member. The organization issued a second press release on July 21, after the department was notified of Daniel’s jeep discovered by a rancher on his property about four miles southwest of the job site where he was last seen.
His jeep, reportedly discovered in a ravine, had rolled, and landed on its side with its airbags deployed. Reports indicated that he was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident. His personal effects including clothes, cell phone, wallet, and keys were recovered at the scene, according to the report.
Detectives allegedly conducted a ground search by foot with help from the Department of Public Safety’s Ranger helicopter, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and the search and rescue dogs. However, the search was said to have come up “empty.”
Detectives reportedly continue to analyze evidence from his vehicle and reevaluate further searches but as of this point, “no foul play is suspected,” the report noted.
“Once the police department received the initial report, the case was investigated as a missing person immediately. At this time, no facts or evidence have been presented that indicate any foul play. The Buckeye Police Department used all available resources to include off-road vehicles, police helicopters, searches on foot, and the civil air patrol to help search a large area,” Astrup said.
Unsurprised that there was no updated information from the Buckeye police about the case, the family has sought its own private investigator to proceed with exhausting all efforts and resources to search for the missing geologist.
The father, David Robinson II, has taken the helms of locating his son. He recounts receiving a call from his daughter, who lives in Phoenix, on June 23, alerting him in South Carolina that Daniel was missing; she was informed by one of Daniel’s coworkers.
“Naturally, Davisha was very worried, and so was I about his whereabouts. However, since Daniel usually calls his family when he decides to take a trip, I was not too alarmed until I found that it was more than six hours since anyone has heard from him,” said the father, noting how “perturbed” he became with no word from his son.
Unable to search for him from South Carolina, he called Daniel’s job for information with no success in finding him. Then, he called the Tempe Arizona Police Department to file a missing person report but was directed to the Buckeye Police Department since that would be the right precinct for the area where Daniel was last seen.
“After contacting the Buckeye Police Department, the next two days of trying to pull their teeth to go out and look for my son proved to me that I had to leave immediately from my home and search for Daniel myself. The Buckeye Police Department showed no interest in searching for my son,” he said.
“Instead, they quickly adopted a theory that my son decided to abandon his family and friends. On a couple of occasions, the Buckeye Police suggested that my son may [has] joined a monastery and became a monk. It was offensive to me, and it motivated me even more than I was already to do whatever I had to do to find my son.”
He constantly contacted the Buckeye Police Department and Daniel’s job, Matrix for all the information he could get as he traveled.
“I did everything that I could to put pressure on the police department to go out and search for him. Unfortunately, it took pressure from my auntie in Philadelphia to get them to get a helicopter almost a week later. It was another sign that the Buckeye Police Department didn’t take my son’s disappearance seriously,” he said.
The father added how he was even told by Buckeye police that they “couldn’t do much because my son is a grown man,” so he took matters in his own hands, he said, interviewing the last person who saw his son.
“I needed to look that person in the eyes who said that my son got into his jeep and drove off into the desert and vanished. I had to find a way to get into that desert, find that worksite and see for myself,” said the father.
He described how he kept going to the gate with binoculars on Sun Valley Parkway in Buckeye and decided to “get in there one way or another because something, everything that was being told to me about my son’s disappearance, was not adding up.”
“The Buckeye Police Department had started searching over a week after my son went missing and said nothing was found each time. I became frustrated and tired with the police department’s lack of enthusiasm, so I created my search. Finally, I started a search with hard work and meeting the right people,” he said.
During that search, he said, about five “remains of other people in the desert” were recovered. “The remains of people were found in areas where the Buckeye Police Department told me they searched for my son but have not found these themselves. I have deep doubt that Buckeye did one thorough search for my son. If so, why didn’t they find the remains? Because of my lack of trust in the Buckeye Police Department, I decided to need my investigator on the search,” he said.
“After checking with detectives, I am aware of one set or partial human remains that has been recovered. If there were any additional remains recovered, it may not have been within the jurisdiction of the Buckeye Police Department. The remains that were discovered are pending identification by the Office of the Medical Examiner,” said Astrup when asked about the discovered remains.
An investigator came onboard and uncovered evidence the Buckeye Police Department did not, said David Robinson II, adding some evidence came from the Buckeye Police Department’s report, but “unfortunately, they either didn’t know how to read their data or didn’t care to read it correctly.”
“The Buckeye Police Department refuses to look at any possibility other than their initial theory that my son decided to abandon his family,” he said, recalling his interaction with police from viewing pictures of the scene to seeing the vehicle.”
“The detective once again suggested that my son most likely walked off naked into the desert and joined a monastery to become a monk. I was angry inside and already emotional about seeing my son’s Jeep for the first time wrecked,” he stated.David Robinson II
The concerned father detailed how the police kept insisting that he touch the vehicle when he went to see it, but he was too emotional to do so, he said, noting that the officer “opened the back door and pointed out things that were still in it,” took a bag with his son’s items and dumped it on a seat.
“I still didn’t touch that vehicle even though they kept suggesting that I do. Finally, I told him that I was ready to leave. He then said that I needed to make arrangements to have the vehicle removed from their impound because they will have it towed away to a towing company, and I would have to pay for storage. I didn’t have a chance to breathe before I had to worry about finding some place for it. I explained that I needed time, and he agreed to give me a few more days,” said the father.
With more questions looming, he vividly recalled sitting in his hotel room, thinking about what transpired and “realized that they didn’t do any forensics work.” He requested a meeting with the Buckeye chief of police, Larry Hall and his detectives, noting the lack of forensics work at the scene where his son’s vehicle was found.
“Their explanation was they didn’t do any because there was no blood in the vehicle and no sign of foul play. I asked how they know that my son was even driving the vehicle. The detective said that ‘he was obviously driving because it’s his vehicle.’ I asked again how they knew that it was my son driving or someone else was also in the vehicle. They didn’t have a response,” he stated.
Two days later, the father said a detective called to state they were doing forensics, dusting for fingerprints, which is something he said should have been done at the scene before removing the vehicle and releasing personal effects that were all in evidence bags “but marked as safekeeping.”
“The items were never considered evidence to the Buckeye Police Department because their theory that my son walked away naked and probably became a monk was clear to them. Unfortunately, they refuse to change position until now that my investigator shared his findings with them. They so far have asked me one question; and I have not heard from them again,” he added.
“We were originally supposed to be working along with Buckeye P.D., but that fell through, and we have been gathering all of our information on our own,” said Phoenix-based vehicular crimes investigator and expert, Jeff McGrath.
Referred by an attorney friend, who the Robinson family initially contacted for assistance, McGrath was unaware of the missing Robinson saga until he got involved per the father’s request.
“When I was told that they found Daniel’s vehicle wrecked in the desert, then I started to understand why my friend was asking me to help,” he said, calling the case unique.
While he said his team is “slowly answering some of the many questions that were left unanswered,” the biggest question remains, which is the whereabouts of Daniel Robinson.
“This case started with a short investigation and final determination where Mr. Robinson was still left with confusion and a lot of questions. When we were brought onboard, a month had passed, and time was critical. As soon as we began our investigation, a month after Daniel went missing, we were able to uncover some issues with the initial investigation,” McGrath said.
“It appeared to us that the original detectives did not know there were some problems with how Daniel’s car was damaged. They had the information that they downloaded from the car’s Airbag Control Module (black box) and they did not see or understand that it did not match with the vehicle’s damage and location. It was brushed off as, Daniel crashed and walked away from his vehicle, never to be seen again and that was it. As we began to unravel those questions, we would come across more new questions,” he stated.
Since he began investigating, although the focus has narrowed, with help from many volunteers and the many hours devoted to the case, answers are slowly revealed, but “the big answer” to where Daniel is “keeps eluding us,” said McGrath.
He explained how families regularly seek outside professionals to investigate crimes against them or crimes they are accused of and many other non-criminal incidents.
“A lot of times our local, county, state, and federal law enforcement do a great job, but there are a handful of times where they get it wrong, or it’s just rushed. This is not because they don’t care, but a lot of times because they not properly or adequately trained. It’s like going to the wrong doctor for a heart condition and that doctor thinking they can treat you just fine. Well maybe they will, but if they’re wrong because they don’t know what they’re doing, the result(s) could be devastating. There are outside professionals —private investigators—that specialize in all types of matters and that’s where we come in,” McGrath said.
In the five years, McGrath has been involved in private investigation work, he boasts a 99% success rate, noting how he “can count on one hand how many cases we’ve lost,” but the disappearance of Daniel Robinson is presenting challenges as time passes by.
“At this point, two months have passed since Daniel went missing. I don’t want to say the chances are ‘grim,’ but we have to be realistic in that if he is out in that desert, with temps reaching as high as 115 degrees, it’s not ideal for survival,” he said, adding the next step in this process is to conduct more interviews and continue working with his team and many volunteers to “help find Daniel.”
Meanwhile, the Robinson patriarch described feelings of worry and fear as he wonders if his son is hurt, in danger.
“I am afraid to hear that something has happened to him. Not having answers to where Daniel is or what happened to him keeps me up at night; it makes me anxious. I feel like a big part of myself is missing,” said the United States Army veteran, who is an entrepreneur and businessman.
Tips and information can remain anonymous as the family awaits calls or texts to 803-200-7994.
Article originally published in the Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021 edition of the Arizona Informant.