Missing geologist Daniel Robinson’s mother and siblings flew to Arizona to hold a press conference on Sunday outside the Buckeye Police Department in an attempt to keep pressure on authorities to find the 24-year-old, who hasn’t been seen in months
The young man’s father, David Robinson, has been in Arizona for months and the family retained a private investigator in July. Nearly 55,000 people have signed a Justice for Daniel Robinson petition as his friends and relatives demand answers to a baffling desert mystery – which they believe may include foul play.
Mr Robinson, who graduated from College of Charleston with a degree in archaeology, disappeared on 23 June after seeming disoriented on a work site and ostensibly driving off into the desert with no explanation. His behaviour had been slightly off in the weeks before his disappearance but there has been no sign of him since; the geologist’s car was recovered nearly a month after he vanished, along with his phone, wallet, keys and clothes he was last seen wearing.
His father told The Independent that he believed police had dropped the ball or given up regarding the case.
“It’s been three months,” he said on Sunday. “That only happens when nobody takes your child or your missing person seriously. That’s the reason why we have to get a petition, get the support of the community behind us, get things done.”
He told The Independent that the family would start organising their own searches again for his son in the coming week.
The family’s hired private investigator, former police officer Jeff McGrath, has uncovered confusing data from the geologist’s Jeep – which was spotted by a rancher, lying on its side in a ravine with the airbag deployed, on 20 July. The area had been repeatedly searched before its discovery and Mr McGrath’s findings raised even more questions.
Evidence from the vehicle showed that it crashed and then drove another 11 miles before ending up in the ravine with a last known speed of 30mph, Mr McGrath told The Independent – even though he couldn’t recreate those speed conditions in the terrain.
“We definitely have something suspicious here,” he said, adding: “At minimum, we have an endangered missing persons case. If he’s not right in the head and he just kind of wanders off, that could be a problem.”
Ken Elliott, another geologist who’d been working with Mr Robinson on the morning he disappeared, said the 24-year-old seemed fine when they met at the job site. But, within a matter of minutes, Mr Robinson began speaking strangely and staring off into the desert, said Mr Elliott. Without any explanation, Mr Robinson then got into his Jeep and left.
Mr Elliott later followed the vehicle tracks, which he said led further into the desert.
“When I saw that, my heart sank, because it just told me that he wasn’t going home,” Mr Elliott told The Independent. “Something was really not right.”
Repeated air and land searches have been conducted, even employing the use of cadaver dogs and recovering human remains – who are not those of Mr Robinson and have yet to be identified. But the geologist appears to have disappeared into thin air.
“Maybe he did just take off, but he’s got nothing,” Mr McGrath told The Independent this week. “There’s no evidence that he built an account somewhere to have money; he didn’t have much money to begin with. He didn’t have a phone, his ID … we didn’t see any of that pre-planning that you would see if somebody just wanted to just go be someone else.”
The detective added that “nothing makes sense about the vehicle and where it was and his clothes being just out there”.
A spokeswoman for the Buckeye Police Department told The Independent Sunday that a “meeting with the outside expert to analyse the vehicle data is set to happen in the coming days.”
Last week, PIO Carissa Planalp said that officers were “super committed to finding” Mr Robinson and the unexplained disappearance remained “a conversation every day”.
“This case is such a priority, and there’s so much importance on it … We’re looking for any information from the public – and the public has really come out in a big way through searches and through providing information that’s been so helpful. But we need more. We need more information.”