By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
A mysterious disappearance in northern Wyoming has law enforcement officials in Big Horn County puzzled.
It’s been more than seven months since 28-year-old Davante Richardson was last seen by family in Washington, DC on July 20, 2020. A week later, his abandoned Jeep Compass was spotted on a dirt road about seven miles from Greybull… but there was no sign of the driver.
The reporting of the Jeep as an abandoned vehicle came seven days after Richardson’s family reported him missing on July 22 and prompted a multi-agency investigation involving agencies from Big Horn County to Washington, D.C.
Big Horn County Sheriff Ken Blackburn told Cowboy State Daily that the investigation got off to a slow start because of the many jurisdictions involved in the missing persons case. The jurisdiction with authority over the case is the Washington, D.C., Metro Police Department.
“It’s very common throughout the United States for agencies to work together on different things – search and rescue, missing person cases, homicides,” he said. “You know, bad guys travel across state lines all the time and we do a lot of those mutual aid assists and those types of things. So when this gentleman came missing, it was unknown that he was missing until his car showed up in Big Horn County.”
When officers ran the car’s information through the national crime database, they discovered that Richardson had been reported missing from Washington, D.C., by his family just the week before.
“So immediately we get on the horn with that agency, and we start getting the information now, that there’s this missing person, we start running all of those leads to ground with the Washington, D.C., police.”
But Blackburn said investigators instantly ran into some cultural – and geographical – hurdles, which stalled their effort to get information out to the public.
“We were sharing with them what we were dealing with, and they were flat not understanding the rural nature,” he explained. “And those officers have just never been to the West, for lack of a better explanation – it was nobody’s fault. And so, we didn’t know what Metro PD was working, what angle they were working, so we had to respect their desires for a period of time. So it was about a week, give or take, but finally we started pushing the issues. We literally got mad and went out and took pictures looking north, south, east and west from that car, and said, ‘where would you like this address that you’re so stuck on?’
“And then at that point they recognized that they were dealing with a whole different set of geography,” he continued. “At that point we were able to start getting the word out.”
Shortly after the investigation began, D.C. Metro changed the lead investigator on the case, and Blackburn said the new detective had a better handle on how things work in the West.
“The new investigator was from Colorado, and at least had an understanding of the West – and then we started moving like lightning,” he said.
Blackburn pointed out that people out West are really good about looking out for other people – so they literally had hundreds of reported sightings of Davante, all the way from Yellowstone National Park south, east and west into South Dakota, and several other places. And he added that several other agencies assisted.
“In addition to Big Horn County resources, we had the FBI out, we had multiple different counties with their K-9 units, we had horse teams, foot teams, air support, all searching this particular area,” he said.
He added that in any type of search, a perimeter is set up, and this one was based on computer algorithms that determined the speed of a person on foot, including details like weather conditions and geographical formations.
“We set very liberal perimeters and searched those perimeters, then expanded them again, and continued to search,” he said.
But he said officers have had no success locating Davante within these search areas, although they have continued to search throughout the winter. Another major search will probably be conducted in the spring, Blackburn said.
However, based on experience, Blackburn said Richardson is probably not in the area that officers have been searching.
In an interview with the Basin Republican-Rustler newspaper, Marquita Richardson, Davante’s aunt, said that Davante is a quiet young man who has no history of mental illness or of trouble with the law.
Richardson found himself unemployed in February last year, when COVID shut down the chain of grocery stores for which he worked as a manager, and he then took a job as an Uber driver, until he contracted the virus himself. Richardson was also a tattoo artist and a musician as well, with his own multimedia company he called “Big Blues Studio” – and dreams of one day becoming a music producer.
The family suspects it was this dream that caused him to make the 2,000-mile trip to rural Wyoming in July, although they didn’t even realize he was missing until several days after he left the D.C. area.
Davante had sent a late-night text message to a friend, saying he was going to Wyoming to get a jump on his music career. Friends suspect that he was going to try to see Kanye West, a resident of Cody.
Blackburn agreed with the assessment, explaining that in one of Richardson’s YouTube videos (which have since been taken down), he expressed a desire to connect with West.
“He said ‘Me and Kanye need to talk,’ or something like that.”
Missing persons cases in rural Wyoming are rare, but not unheard of, according to Blackburn.
“In the West, we’ll have missing persons with search and rescue type situations – but a person who just comes out here and dumps a car? It happens, probably more frequently than anybody would like to recognize, but it is on the rarer side of things,” he said. “Maybe once every couple of years in Big Horn County.”
But he added cases aren’t usually this perplexing, with so few clues.
“One of my career emphases is on search and rescue, and we take a lot of pride in getting folks home to their kin,” Blackburn said. “And we work very hard on our search and rescue, with missing persons and people who run away, to get people reunited. And we take that very, very, VERY seriously.”
However, in this case, Blackburn has his concerns about Davante’s safety, based on the condition in which the vehicle was found.
“The car was ‘processed’, and there were several flags that presented themselves to experienced investigators, that caused some concern,” he said. “The car itself did not present any evidence of somebody driving straight through across the United States. It was very clean, very well kept. There was an absence of fast food wrappers, and those types of things that would build up during a sustained road trip. That is a flag that most definitely raises some eyebrows.”
But he stopped short of hypothesizing what those flags might indicate.
“It would be foolish for me to say what it may or may not be, and it’s inappropriate for me to say,” he explained. “But when things are out of place like that, investigators start to wonder what might have happened inside that vehicle.”
However, Blackburn said he’s not giving up hope.
“I’ve been in the business too long to make any statements or guesses, because we just flat do not know,” he said.
And Blackburn emphasized his agency is committed to solving this case.
“We have done, and would continue to do anything in our power, to bring a successful resolution and bring this man home to his family,” he said.
Richardson is described as a 6-foot, 1-inch tall black male with a medium brown complexion, weighing approximately 170 pounds. The Sheriff’s Department said anyone with information about his disappearance – which is still considered an open case – can contact the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office at 307-568-2324.