7 months after disappearance, family of missing geologist still clinging to hope

It’s been seven months since Daniel Robinson, a 25-year-old geologist, was last seen at his work site in Buckeye, Ariz., about 50 miles southwest of Phoenix. Since then, Daniel’s father, David Robinson, has worked tirelessly to search for his son.

“It’s been a roller coaster, you know, we think we’re about to get an answer, or get close to finding some answers to what happened. And then it’s like, we have to start all over again,” Robinson, an Army veteran, told Yahoo News.

Police found Daniel’s wrecked jeep and all of his personal belongings nearly 4 miles from the work site where he was last seen, but investigators have not been able to locate Daniel.

Robinson has spent the last several months searching for answers. He left his home and family in South Carolina to move to Arizona. He hired a private investigator, assembled a crew of volunteers and has conducted over 20 searches in the desert terrain where Daniel was last seen. Robinson said he is now expanding his search efforts into other cities such as Phoenix and Goodyear.

Robinson said he believes his son is somewhere out there and hopes it’s just a matter of time until he finds him. “Maybe in this case, my son somehow escaped that desert out there with a head injury,” he said. “There’s a possibility that he could be part of a homeless population.”

Daniel Robinson.
Daniel Robinson. (Courtesy of the Robinson family)

The Buckeye Police Department said Daniel’s case remains an open and active investigation and that every sighting or tip it receives is being followed up on. However, Robinson said he feels frustrated by the lack of urgency and motivation by authorities in finding his son.

“They wouldn’t even send something as simple as a helicopter to find a young man out there in the desert, who’s never been out there before, in that area,” he said.

Daniel’s disappearance happened just a few months before the case involving Gabby Petito — the young woman who was apparently killed by her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, while traveling in a van across the United States together — sparked national attention. Despite his best efforts, Robinson, who is Black, couldn’t draw much attention to his son’s case and said he believes that race played a role in why his son’s disappearance didn’t get the media attention or the continued help by local authorities that he said it needed.

“The Petito family, for instance, don’t have anything to do with the way people approach other cases. They were grieving, just like I was, for their young daughter, you know, so it’s not their fault, it’s the way the system is set up. People of color, we often go unheard,” said Robinson, who has been fighting to get the FBI involved in his son’s case.

Buckeye Police said that while there are no plans to open an adjoining case, the FBI has offered its assistance with the case moving forward.

“You have to literally beg, plead and work. We have to do all kinds of twists and turns, just to get some type of attention for your family and child, you know, just to be heard and get some kind of attention,” Robinson said. “So we get some movement on the ground and get some pressure on the police department.”

Daniel’s Jeep Renegade in a ravine.
Daniel Robinson’s Jeep Renegade was found on July 19, 2021, in a ravine nearly 4 miles from his work site. (Buckeye Police Department)

According to the FBI, the agency had over 89,000 active records for missing persons in 2020, and nearly 45 percent of those cases involved people of color.

“Everybody’s case should be treated exactly the same way. The lesson shouldn’t be one treated greater than the other, or getting more spotlight than one, or the urgency, especially the urgency,” Robinson said. “That first 20 to 40 hours is very crucial to find somebody’s loved one.”

As time goes by, Robinson said the odds of finding his son grow smaller, but he is committed to finding Daniel no matter how long that takes.

“I’m here for you, son, I’m not giving up, I’m going to keep fighting. I know you’re out there, you’re worth it. And if nobody cares, I care. And I’m going to do everything I can to find you,” he said.