Part II of a Series
The search continues as fathers unite to search for missing Daniel Robinson.
By Dee Ford Byas
David Robinson II is not alone in his pursuits to find his 24-year-old son, who disappeared more than two months ago, as he is joined in fervent searches by volunteers and a local private investigator named, Jeff McGrath.
The two not only share a common interest in wanting to find Daniel but share a common bond as fathers who would do anything for their child. They met when Robinson II sought an outside investigator to pursue leads on the whereabouts of his son who went missing from his job in June.
McGrath recalled the evening when a good friend, who is an attorney, contacted him about a case that reportedly involved a vehicular crime related to a missing person incident and was recommended to assist Robinson II.
“Every one of the listed specialists to my company and investigators are all donating our time and services to the Robinson family; and although this is a sad story and investigation, it re-instills my faith in humankind and proves that, regardless of age, gender, color, sexual orientation, religion, political point of view, etc., we can all work together and we are working together to help bring Daniel home to his family where he belongs,” said McGrath.
Frustrated with not knowing where his son is and the perceived lack of interest from the Buckeye Police Department, the father of the missing geologist traveled from South Carolina to Arizona for answers and closure regarding his son’s whereabouts.
“Not knowing what to expect and how long I would be in Arizona, I decided to load up my car and drive — I left behind my home, my life, to find my son — something that any father would do for his child,” Robinson II said. “Daniel is a grown man, but he’s also my son, child, and young man.”
He detailed getting a call from his daughter in Phoenix, who was alerted to news of her missing brother by one of his coworkers, organizing his own search party planned for Saturdays and receiving help from the private investigator.
The Army veteran held a search party from 6 to 10 a.m., on Saturday, Aug. 28, leading teams of volunteers in the vicinity of Sun Valley Parkway, north of Cactus Road. From a command center, he shares an Operations Detail Page with participants as if on a mandated mission.
Calling the recent excavation a “grid-line type search, not the free-roaming sector type as before,” Robinson II noted his experience with recent searches.
“That first search was my first time getting past the gate that separated me from my son. Though we didn’t find Daniel, it put me closer to seeing him again,” he said, describing how search parties consisting of volunteers continue efforts to find Daniel.
“Furthermore, we average over 200-plus people signing up to come out to the searches. Never would I have imagined that I would be in Arizona searching for my son. Yet, here I am, deep in the search. I didn’t see a day where I wouldn’t be able to hear my son’s voice. It’s been over two months since I last spoke to him in that two-hour call.”
He shared flyers with information about how to get involved with the search including signing up to volunteer at searchfordaniel.org.
“I came from being in South Carolina trying to stay home much as possible to avoid the COVID situation to being in the streets organizing searches and doing interviews. Life has changed for my family and me. We went from being happy to feeling sad, and worried about our brother, cousin, nephew, grandchild, and son. I don’t know when I will find my son, but I will try my best to stay in the fight until I do,” said Robinson II, who left his familiar Columbia, South Carolina home life and surroundings to initiate a full search for his son.
Remaining optimistic, he reminisces about the time spent with his son and the rest of his family, including Daniel’s mother, Melissa Edmonds; his older brother David Robinson III; twin sisters, Davisha and Latisha Robinson; plus, a younger sister, Talia Robinson, who miss Daniel along with his grandmothers, uncles, aunts, and cousins who are “devastated by his disappearance.”
Adding how he never had a father, other than God in his life while growing up “as a fatherless boy,” he promised that if he had children, he would “do whatever it takes to ensure that I am present in their lives.”
“I watched my son grow up from a boy to a great man. He has all the characteristics that it takes to be successful. Like his siblings, Daniel excelled and pushed the bar of excellence higher than anyone in our generation. They finished college with high honors and have careers that most in our culture don’t seek after. Daniel went even further,” Robinson II said.
He noted despite his son being born with one hand, Daniel was used to competing scholastically and physically with his siblings and “learned that he was not handicapped.”
“His mother and I made sure that he never felt limited to what he can do . . . I treated Daniel precisely as I did his older brother. I would help him but did not give him an excuse to not succeed. Daniel used what some called a disability as a strength,” said the father.
He remembered how some people considered Daniel’s goals impossible but was shown otherwise as Daniel played the French horn and the trombone; ran track, played basketball and other high school sports while maintaining a 4.5-grade point average before college and throughout college.
“He never gave up on anything, and I saw myself in him a lot. I am proud of the man that Daniel has become,” he said.
“My son Daniel has a way of bringing people together. Whenever there was a wedge in the relationship between two family members or his friends, Daniel would find ways to bridge that gap and bring those two back from the separation. As a result, Daniel has a lot of friends and makes new friends very easily. He kept a lot of his friends in his life from high school and through college.”
The father called Daniel an adventurous man who likes to travel and loves things like weekend hikes, going to the beach, taking road trips, or simply playing video games at home; plus, spending lots of time talking with family.
“When Daniel and I talk, our conversations typically last at least two hours. Daniel always asks me for advice or talks about life, which a father and son would talk about in conversation. Daniel expresses his desire to be an entrepreneur owning his own business one day. He has goals that he strongly wants to reach and desired to advance his career. I would help guide him on ways to budget and invest in preparation,” said the proud father.
He said Daniel wanted to be a geologist and how it became his passion, graduating with a degree in geology from the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina, and getting his first job straight out of college with Matrix New World as a field geologist for the past three years, according to the father.
“Learning that my youngest son is missing is devastating. I never could even imagine that this would happen in our family. To think that there’s a possibility of losing one of your children is the hardest thing to imagine for a parent. As a father, the protector of my family, not knowing where my son is located makes me feel helpless, unable to do my duty,” Robinson II said.
Dads on Duty
When McGrath received a call from the Robinson patriarch, he was in the northern part of the state investigating and testifying in a homicide trial, he said, describing an average day, consisting of cases ranging from second-degree vehicular homicide to misdemeanor DUI and first-degree murder and other non-vehicular felony cases.
After waking at 5 a.m., having a cup of coffee before his children awaken, he takes calls, checks email and prioritizes his day based on cold cases or those requiring immediate attention “as they all grow a life of their own.”
He details getting kids off to school, working throughout the Valley, or state to conduct traffic assessments and interviews, re-measuring crash scenes and verifying data collected by police.
“Then I fly my drone over intersections and roadways and capture remaining tire marks, scrapes, and gouges from a bird’s eye view,” McGrath said.
Documenting his findings and issues includes, downloading images, audio, video, and raw data collected to help determine what happened as part of his team’s investigations.
“Once all the smoke clears, I try to wrap up any loose ends and greet my kids as they get home from school. Then it’s time to think about what I’m making for dinner and make sure homework gets done. Throughout my day, I’m also taking calls from existing and potential clients. I’m providing them with the status of my investigation on their case or trying to explain to a potential client, after they have briefed me on the entire incident, that I don’t know how much it will cost to investigate their case and ‘No, I don’t do flat rate cases,”’ he said.
McGrath, a former municipal police and motorcycle officer was also a vehicular crimes detective. His experience includes working with the Maricopa County Public Defender’s Office as an accident reconstructionist and vehicular crimes investigator.
Medically retired from law enforcement after 15 years, he has worked as a private accident reconstructionist/vehicular crimes investigator for five years. A Phoenix native, he is trained in advanced accident investigation and reconstruction from the University or North Florida’s Institute of Police Technology and Management and Northwestern University.
Married 26 years, the father of four, like Robinson II has twins. He has a 16-year-old boy and girl fraternal twins; an 11-year-old son; and an eight-year-old daughter; plus three cats and a puppy.
“There’s not much of a balance to my life. I take every moment I have where I can spend it with my kids and coach my 11-year-old son’s soccer team. The weekdays are pretty crazy, but I try to make the best of my weekends spending it with my family if I’m not enjoying a nice ride on my Harley with my best friend/former police motorcycle partner,” McGrath said.
“My investigators from both units have volunteered their time to help find Daniel and work this case with me so I can rely on each of their expertise to get the best outcome for the Robinson family. I have some of the best former police detectives in the Valley.”
McGrath said his team includes a 33-year Phoenix police and homicide detective, a former Washington state trooper who specializes in missing persons; a retired municipal violent crimes detective; another retired traffic/advanced accident investigator; and a current municipal police officer in his last year before retirement.
“I have utilized numerous private specialists from engineers to K9 handlers to rescue divers to private pilots and the list goes on,” McGrath added.
Article originally published in the Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021 edition of the Arizona Informant