The Disappearance of Daniel Robinson
This article contains graphic content that may be unsuitable for some readers. Discretion is advised.
All the information I have sourced in this article is cited below. Anything I’ve researched has been accumulated from various websites and archives for educational purposes only. My research is thorough and honest. I appreciate any comments providing further clarity and conciseness.
Arizona — it’s a state known for expansive desert landscapes, breathtaking vistas, and hiking trails. The great sand seas draw in millions who want a feel for the vastness of the terrain. Go far enough out and you might think you’re on another planet. If you’re looking to hike or backpack through the state, you’d likely bring water and filters, some food, and gear essential to making a safe trip.
But Daniel Robinson, who would now be 25-years-old, was not looking for adventure in the desert when he went missing on June 23, 2021. He was leaving his isolated work site just as the temperatures began to soar toward 90 degrees. A month later, his Jeep was located just under 3 miles from the worksite he’d last been seen at. It was abandoned in a ravine bed. The crushed exterior appeared to have been in a collision. Amongst the debris, investigators found Daniel’s cell phone, wallet, and the clothes he was wearing the day he went missing.
With the help of the local community, Daniel’s family has been able to perform dozens of searches on their own. They’ve also handed out thousands of flyers, just trying to keep his face and name in the public eye.
These efforts, and learning more about who Daniel is and what his last known actions were, can help us bring Daniel home. He has a dedicated, loving family who wants answers to what happened to their missing loved one.
Investigative Timeline |
Daniel’s sister was living in Phoenix at the time of his disappearance. On that fateful morning, she was startled by a rapid knocking on her door. On the other side was a coworker of Daniel’s. He wanted to know if she’d seen her brother that day. He claimed that Daniel had come into work earlier at 9 a.m. acting abnormally, saying he’d look into the distance of the desert while muttering things that just didn’t quite make sense. Then, Daniel left about 15 minutes later, headed west toward the deep desert terrain.
It is unclear how this coworker knew Daniel’s sister, or where she lived.
After this coworker left, Daniel’s sister alerted their father, David, about the event, hoping to gain the Army veteran’s clarity and insight. Although anxious, David instructed his daughter to stop by Daniel’s apartment while he called Daniel’s friends. When David realized that over 6 hours had passed since his son had last been seen, his anxieties only grew.
“That’s when I got a little — a lot — worried,” David Robinson to Rolling Stone
Daniel was reported missing that night at 7 p.m. by his father. The Buckeye Police Department conducted a ground search of the job site shortly after and added his information to the national missing persons database that night.
The following day, police performed another ground search of the job site while Tempe Police searched Daniel’s apartment. Investigators also attempted to get a ping off his cellphone but were unsuccessful. On the other hand, they were able to access the Uconnect system of Daniel’s Jeep but there was no GPS information available.
At some point, David began to feel that the Buckeye Police Department wasn’t working efficiently so he packed up his belongings in South Carolina and moved to Arizona to start his own search efforts, leaving behind his wife. He says that she is battling through the situation from a distance but her love and support for their son is not any less than those in closer proximity to Daniel’s last seen location. Using a combination of his retirement savings and the support of the local community, David has been able to move from hotel rooms to a one-bedroom apartment as he continues his search.
On June 25, a helicopter search was conducted to provide an aerial perspective. And a third investigation of the job site starts and ends with no new information released.
Over a week later, on July 6, Buckeye Police performed their own search of Daniel’s apartment. A fourth search of the job site is conducted.
On July 9, a Civil Air Patrol aerial search was completed with no new information.
The family began working with law enforcement to go over Daniel’s financial records on July 15 and these efforts are still ongoing (02/02/22).
The investigation amped up for the first time on Tuesday, July 19, 2021, when a rancher found Daniel’s vehicle two-and-a-half miles from his worksite in a remote area of the desert. The Jeep was found laying on the passenger side in a dried-up ravine bed. They reported the vehicle to the Buckeye Police Department who conducted searches by foot and drone. They recovered the Jeep and Daniel’s cell phone as well as his wallet. Outside of the vehicle were articles of clothing that Daniel had been wearing the day he went missing.
With the vehicle and cell phone in their possession, Buckeye Police downloaded data from both the Jeep and phone on July 21, hoping to get an idea of what happened before the crash. The following day, July 22, his Jeep was searched for physical evidence.
Continuing to build onto what they have, investigators receive more financial information through Daniel’s family on July 28. His financial records could tell them a lot about what he could have been planning, whether his spending habits changed, or if he’d transferred any funds to another account.
While searching, a volunteer discovered a skull in the barren terrain on July 29. Later, it was disclosed that the skull did not belong to Daniel.
Nearly a month later and with less information trickling forward, investigators turn to Daniel’s coworkers on August 19. Some had never been interviewed until this point and they made the effort to reinterview a few.
On September 28, another investigation at the crash site is organized by a team from San Tan Recon. This company assesses vehicular accidents to create independent reports. This is especially helpful in cases like Daniel’s where many feel like the police aren’t on their side. At the same time, Buckeye Police are conducting more ground searches which continue for another two days.
Our next update on the investigation comes on October 14 when San Tan Recon revisits the crash site for further assessment before settling on a final report that would be published to police and the family four days later on October 18.
The report states the following:
- The Jeep was in a rollover crash
- This is the only crash the vehicle has been in
- Speed increased right before the collision
- There were more than 40 ignition cycles recorded after the crash
- There was an 11-mile difference between the crash site and the recorded mileage on the odometer but was not considered abnormal
Breaking this information down, we’ve learned several things about the crash. The speed increasing right before the collision led to the belief that Daniel was attempting to scale the far side of the ravine bed but failed, causing the Jeep to roll over. The ignition cycles after the crash are likely Daniel’s trials of getting the vehicle to start up again or to simply use the electrical system.
Bottom line is that Daniel survived the crash and waited around trying to free himself from this unfortunate predicament. These are not the actions of a man desperate to disappear or die. This is a man fighting for his life.
Two weeks later, on November 6, human remains were discovered during a search. However, they were not connected to Daniel.
David posted a tweet on that day, saying he hoped his discoveries of multiple human remains helps bring closure to other grieving families.
And finally, on November 23, investigators briefed the FBI on the case.
Now that we have an idea of how the investigation began, we can get a better understanding of who Daniel is and how the investigation is going as of the original posting of this article.
Who is Daniel? |
Daniel Robinson was born to his father, David, and his mother, Melissa. From what I have gathered, the family consisted of a handful of other children, and they were raised in South Carolina.
Although born without one of his forearms, Daniel reassured everyone that he was perfectly capable of anything he set his mind to. Growing up, he mastered many hobbies, including weight-lifting and football as well as musical endeavors.
He is a passionate guy with a heightened sense of curiosity. This natural desire to explore, question, and understand led him to study geology at the College of Charleston. While there, Daniel joined a fraternity and even graduated with honors.
So, not only was he truly in love with what he was doing, he excelled at it. He is very intelligent, very curious. He is ambitious and eager to put in the effort where he needs to.
In his interview with Rolling Stone, David says that his son is trying to broaden his horizons — that he wants to visit other countries and start his own business ventures. His son has a lot that he still wants to accomplish.
“He wants to go to different countries. He’s an entrepreneur. He wanted to start his own business. He has a lot of dreams and aspirations that he wants to do,” David Robinson to Rolling Stone
Daniel’s disappearance is unlikely to be connected to his desire to travel because he has always spoken with his family about any plans he’s made previously. He even made arrangements to visit with his family in July, which would come just weeks after his disappearance.
After college, Daniel forged a career as a geologist. He was employed by Matrix New World Engineering at the time of his disappearance, according to Rolling Stone. The day he went missing, Daniel was at a well site, working with employees from multiple other companies.
Recent updates |
With the FBI notified as of November, a longtime wish of the family, maybe the investigation will finally pick up speed. However, his father, David, has spoken openly multiple times about his frustrations with the police, saying they refused to hear him out and let him believe false promises. As he conducted his own searches, he would tell investigators locations he thought were worth their time. His pleas either went unanswered, or police showed up without any tools necessary to document their efforts.
“I just realized I was inadvertently working for the Buckeye Police Department,” David Robinson to Rolling Stone.
On January 27, 2022, Buckeye Police performed searches on two wells but have not found anything relating to the case.
From what I have gathered, David was the one asking them to check the wells around the worksite where his son was last seen. And based on the comment threads on the Please Help Find Daniel Robinson website, he hasn’t been the only one.
This is a father eager to find his son and it is heartbreaking to see that he has to fight so hard to keep his son’s name and case relevant. Especially when Daniel’s disappearance coincided with Gabby Petito’s case.
Gabby Petito’s body was found relatively quickly after her reported disappearance and David credits this to police using their resources efficiently and willingly. He feels that the Buckeye Police Department is reluctant to use its resources, leading to a prolonged search for Daniel.
His father is leading the cause through the Please Help Find Daniel Robinson website as well as his Twitter. He has managed searches on his own, inviting law enforcement every time. Public knowledge is growing through his efforts. What originally started as 20 searchers at a time has grown to be hundreds. The groups search on a grid. David and the volunteers have covered 19,000 acres of land.
If you’re in the area, upcoming searches are always updated on the site with information on safety briefings as well. If you’d like to financially contribute, there are also options to donate.
Rolling Stone requested an interview with Buckeye Chief of Police, Larry Hall, but he declined. Instead, the department sent the magazine an official statement alongside a partial police report. This report included details previously unknown to the public.
The police report |
Through the report, we learn that Daniel removed all of his Instagram posts before his disappearance. This information can be taken so many different ways.
Personally, when I have a lot going on in my life, I archive my photos online. I don’t know what it is that makes this action feel so alleviating, but I find myself doing this every six months or so. It signals a change for myself, my vision of my life. I don’t know if Daniel felt similarly but it can offer some insight to why someone, completely in their right mind, might do this.
We are also alerted to the fact that Daniel had another job — grocery delivery through Instacart. This flexible side hustle allowed Daniel to work on his own time. David has stated that Daniel did a delivery the night before he disappeared that possibly led to him being exhausted the following day.
Through his Instacart deliveries, Daniel met a woman named Katelyn. According to the report and Daniel’s sister, Daniel and Katelyn formed a deep enough connection that the pair had discussions about spirituality. Katelyn reportedly prompted Daniel to listen to a podcast created by the German spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle. This man’s teachings seemingly changed the way Daniel viewed life.
“The podcast showed him how to view things in the world in a positive energy and to avoid negative energy.”
Tolle’s teachings focus on the idea that humans are all connected by a unified consciousness and that this consciousness is what he calls God. He believes that in order to survive the future, humans must elevate their consciousness through a spiritual awakening. This is what his practice works on.
Through their shared fascination with Tolle’s teachings, Katelyn tells police that Daniel appeared to have fallen in love with her but she didn’t share the same sentiments. She solidifies this by saying that she never had a relationship with Daniel, however, some of his loved ones counter her statement by saying that Daniel had mentioned he had hooked up with one of the women he delivered to.
When prompted further, Katelyn admits that she had invited him over to her place when she was drinking with a friend. She assured investigators that she didn’t actually intend to get together with him by making insulting, derogatory comments about his disability and stature. Even further to disprove her original stance on their relationship, Katelyn admitted that Daniel began to exhibit controlling behavior, like showing up at her residence when she wasn’t there. She says that he also expressed his admiration of her, going so far as to confess he loved her.
Katelyn said she demanded that he stop contacting her and the last time they communicated was the day before his disappearance. His final message to her read:
“The world can get better, but I’ll have to take all the time I can or we can, whatever to name it. I’ll either see you again or never see you again,” Daniel Robinson to Katelyn.
While the report portrayed Daniel as an obsessive and depressed man, David doesn’t recognize these behaviors as belonging to his son, who has always been quite driven. Further, he says that once Daniel’s Jeep had been located, police suggested that Daniel ran away to join a monastery. Based on everything we know about his recent spiritual explorations, this group would have been likely connected to Tolle.
David says this is impossible because his son has always been led by a scientific mind — that his intelligence would have at least forced him to bring along money and other necessities if he had wanted to leave everything behind.
In his efforts to find answers, David connected with Jeff McGrath.
McGrath was previously an officer as well as a vehicular crimes investigator. His expertise would be used to examine the crash site of the Jeep as well as the nature of the incident altogether. After doing his own research, Jeff came to a few conclusions.
First, he thought the accident was odd, overall. The vehicle’s condition didn’t match the location where it had been found — that the extensive damage caused by a frontal impact didn’t match the shallow ravine walls. The windshield, roof, and front end of the vehicle had all been smashed, shattered, and all but obliterated.
Next, he was able to gain access to the Jeep’s black box. Like the San Tan Recon evaluation that would be performed months after McGrath’s tests, the records showed that the Jeep increased in speed just before the airbags were deployed. McGrath was able to find an exact number: 30 miles per hour. Also like the San Tan Recon assessment, the vehicle was recorded as going 11 miles further into the desert after the airbags deployed.
In an effort to prove that it was even possible to navigate the rocky terrain, McGrath drove his own vehicle through similar terrain in the area. He found the test so difficult that he concluded it would have been impossible for Daniel to drive that fast in that area, let alone allow him to drive another 11 miles after apparently crashing.
Earlier we had learned that in the report given to police by San Tan Recon, the difference on the odometer was not considered abnormal. The brand, Jeep, has assured customers that this is simply how their odometers work, evidence that can be found in any of their vehicles.
McGrath believes the secondary report was a formality on the behalf of Buckeye Police, mostly to make themselves look better for not having done so sooner.
He also has his own theories about what happened to Daniel. He stated that Daniel could have just been exhausted from working on the computer he had been building, mixed with his dark emotions surrounding his supposed failed relationship with Katelyn, he sought silence in the desert but was attacked by someone else. He also offers that Daniel used marijuana recreationally and that perhaps his joints were laced with PCP, leading to hallucinations and the wild ramblings that his coworker reported.
What do you think about McGrath’s theories?
David believes that Daniel wouldn’t leave his family on his own accord. So, he remains the orchestrator of his son’s search parties, rallying thousands to his son’s cause both online and offline.
Until there is proof to dispute otherwise, Daniel is still alive and missing. He could be in danger and there’s a possibility that someone else knows what happened to him, or where he is currently. Like the Robinson family, I hold onto the hope that Daniel is out there. I just hope his family receives the answers they’re looking for.
If you or someone you know has information about this case, please reach out to the following organizations.
Buckeye Police Department tip line: 623–349–6411
For anonymous tips: https://local.nixle.com/city-of-buckeye.
More information is available through:
Valencia, Carmen. “7 months after disappearance, family of missing geologist still clinging to hope.” Yahoo! News, 08 Jan. 2022, https://news.yahoo.com/7-months-after-disappearance-family-of-missing-geologist-still-clinging-to-hope-184444408.html.
Robinson, David [@PleaseHelpFind4]. (05 February 2022), https://twitter.com/PleaseHelpFind4.
Buckeye Police Department. “The Daniel Robinson Investigation Overview.” The Daniel Robinson Investigation Overview, 05, Feb. 2022, https://www.buckeyeaz.gov/community/daniel-robinson-2070.
Ehrlich, Brenna. “Father’s Search for Missing Son Uncovers Two Sets of Remains — and More Questions.” Rolling Stone, 14, Dec. 2021, https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/daniel-robinson-missing-geologist-search-1270669/.
“Changing The World From Within.” The Eckhart Tolle Foundation, https://www.eckharttollefoundation.org/.