Detour investigates: Searching for Daniel Robinson

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  • Published on June 20, 2023
  • In DETOUR Desk

David Robinson was different. From the moment we met, I saw myself in his story, as a Black man and father. And I feel for him.

This one of several articles in a series about Daniel Robinson and missing persons in U.S. To learn more, read the Publisher’s Note.

Since the start of my career, I’ve always tried to keep my feelings separate from my work. This is tough, but I’ve learned through the years it’s best in my profession to put some emotional distance between yourself and your subject.

David Robinson was different. From the moment we met, I saw myself in his story, as a Black man and father. And I feel for him. Just watch him in our short documentary, “Lost in Buckeye”, as he moves through the vast, desolate Sonoran desert, looking for Daniel, his 24-year-old geologist son who mysteriously disappeared exactly two years ago today. I hope the story of David’s search inspires all parents, especially dads.

David’s struggle reflects a history of Black veterans at odds with the very system they once served. David, who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, has spent the past two years uncertain about whether the Buckeye Police Department has even seriously looked for his son – which is why he has taken matters into his own hands. It doesn’t help either that Buckeye, an hour outside Phoenix, is a known “sundown town” – meaning Black people enter the area, especially at night, at their own risk.

An admission: A couple months ago, as we were wrapping our field reporting for Lost in Buckeye, I broke my no-photo rule, which goes like this: no matter how enamored I am with my subject, resist asking to be photographed with them. The rule has resulted in a slender scrapbook, but I’ve proudly lived by it after interviews with myriad heroes, from Oprah to Serena to Trevor to Spike. My only record of our contact is the story itself, as it probably should be.

David Robinson, again, was different. As our reporting team wrapped up our desert field reporting a couple months ago, David rode by me on his ATV. I waved at him to come over, and asked whether he’d please take a picture with me. He hopped off his vehicle, and there we were, a couple of Black dads standing side by side, as brothers. Here’s the photo, and David’s story. Thank you for reading.

Ron Stodghill and David Robinson, who’s searching for his son Daniel, who went missing 60 miles outside of Phoenix in 2021. Photographer: Brooke Muckerman Ron Stodghill

72 Hours in Buckeye, Arizona: The Search for Daniel Robinson