GREYBULL — A little more than six months have passed since the discovery of an abandoned vehicle on an off-the- beaten-path haul road east of Greybull and investigators are still no closer to solving the mystery of what became of Devante Richardson.
The 28-year-old resident of Washington, D.C., told family members on Monday, July 20 that he was “going to see his buddy” — believed to be Kanye West, whom, it should be noted, he’d never met. That was the last time any of them saw or heard from him.
He was reported missing on Wednesday, July 22.
Five days later, on Monday, July 27, Richardson’s dark-colored Jeep Compass was found nearly 2,000 miles away — on a dirt road about “six to eight miles as the crow flies” from Greybull. It’s not uncommon to see bentonite trucks using the road. But to passersby, a vehicle with Washington, D.C., plates appeared out of the ordinary.
When it was still there two days later, on Wednesday, July 29, it was reported to the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office, coming in as an abandoned vehicle. The tip led to a multi-agency investigation involving not only members of the sheriff’s office, but also the
Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C.
To this point, that investigation has yielded little in the way of information. Sheriff Ken Blackburn said it was hampered in the early going by his office and the investigators in Washington, D.C., not being able to get on the same page.
“They wanted a street address where the vehicle was found,” he said. “Out there, no such thing exists. So we took pictures, from the vehicle looking out all four directions, sent them and asked, ‘Where would you suggest we look for an address?’”
It wasn’t until later, when an investigator based in Colorado was brought in to help, that Blackburn began to feel like progress was being made.
Blackburn said his office, with help from South Big Horn Search and Rescue, pulled out all the stops trying to find Richardson.
“We spent the better part of the fall out there, using a helicopter, drones, riding it on horseback and walking it on foot — we found nothing.”
Nate Kreider, a sheriff’s deputy, has been the lead investigator on the case.
He said a K-9 from Park County was brought in as well, but it, too,
failed to find any trace of Davante.
Both men are confident that Richardson was not and is not within a six-mile radius of where his vehicle was found.
Which begs the question: If not there, then where?
It’s a question that keeps at least one Greybull resident up at night.
Angela Lassiter didn’t know Davante Richardson, but she latched on to his case soon after it was reported. She describes herself as “an independent advocate for missing people” and said recently that she makes it a point to stay in touch with the families of people who have been reported missing in Montana and Wyoming. As of late December, she was following four cases.
She said she does it “just to show the families that someone cares” but goes far beyond just placing phone calls and posting flyers. She has from time to time received help from K-9 handler Karin TarQwyn, as well as from a retired highway patrol officer.
Soon after Richardson was reported missing, she traveled the Big Horn Basin, hanging approximately 250 of the “Missing Person” posters that were produced by authorities in Washington, D.C.
At Christmas, she made a dozen Christmas cards and shared them with Davante’s family. His picture was on the card, along with the words, “Those we love don’t go away. They walk beside us every day. Unseen, unheard but always near, still loved, still missed and forever dear.”
The case is close to her heart.
“Oh yeah, it bothers me,” she said. “Every single day.”
She voiced frustration in the pace of the investigation and in the lack of a reaction, from anywhere, to the discovery of the missing vehicle and the disappearance of a young black man.
“If it was a white girl, there’d be candlelight vigils and the case would have a lot of attention,” she said.
In talking with Davante’s family and others, she’s been able to piece together an investigation of her own. For example, she said she knows that two cellphones and a laptop as well as the keys were found inside the vehicle.
Through the ordeal, she’s become friends with Marquita Richardson, who is Davante’s aunt.
Marquita has become the family spokesperson, sharing information about Davante on Facebook.
When reached last week, Marquita shed light on Davante’s early years. A product of a single parent home, he grew up in the Washington, D.C., area but at about the age of 11, relocated to Missouri to live with his father.
According to Marquita, he attended some college in Missouri, but eventually decided to return to the D.C. area. As 2020 began, he was the manager of a grocery store. But in February,
that particular chain of stores closed under the weight of COVID-19, leaving Davante without a job.
For a time, he worked as an Uber driver.
He then contracted COVID-19, according to his aunt.
He was single and had no children, but poured his heart and soul into his hobbies. Marquita said he was a tattoo artist.
His greatest love, however, was music. On his Facebook page, Davante, who went by the name of D Rich, described himself as the CEO of Big Blues Studio, a graphic design and multimedia company providing digital services for clientele in the music industry.
“He’s always been a laid-back type of person, quiet, always doing his own thing,” said Marquita. “He had friends, but not too many close ones. What he liked best was being in his room, listening to music. He was really into it. He wanted to be producer.”
Marquita described in great detail Davante’s final days with his family. An ex-girlfriend would later describe Davante as being “depressed from losing his job” but other family members said he appeared fine when he visited them a few days before he drove off, never to be seen again.
Marquita said the family didn’t realize he was missing for several days.
They tried calling area hospitals. Nothing. Jails, too. He wasn’t locked up. She said he didn’t have a history of trouble with the law. The last communication on record from Davante was a late-night text message to a friend, telling him he was intent on starting his music career and was going to see his friend. Marquita believed that friend to be Kanye West.
“Davante loved his music and wanted to go see him,” she said. “We thought, maybe he made contact. But apparently, neither Kanye or his people saw or heard from him, either.”
She said she was stunned when she learned that his vehicle was found in a small town in Wyoming.
“He’d never been to Wyoming, he didn’t know anything about the area, so when (authorities) contacted us, telling us they’d found his vehicle, his phones, a laptop, we couldn’t believe it. No one leaves their phone behind. Why didn’t he take them?”
To this point, investigators have yet to provide any answers.
Kreider said tips have come in from various locations in Wyoming — Buffalo, Jackson, Yellowstone National Park, even from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department — describing a person on foot appearing to match Davante’s description. But each tip led authorities to the same person, according to Krieder.
“The trail’s gone cold,” he said.
While West owns property in the Big Horns, it’s “15 to 20 miles” above where Davante’s vehicle was found, and according to authorities, there’s no indication that Davante ever met up or made contact with West or anyone in his party.
Marquita said she fears the worst. Her sister and Davante’s mother has already lost one of her children.
“It’s been really traumatic for her,” she said, adding that she’s sought help from a counselor to deal with the stress of Davante’s disappearance.
“Part of me believes something happened to him,” said Marquita. “He had a very tight relationship with his mother — he lived with her and they talked every single day. And to go six months without talking to her … I just don’t believe he’d do that. Something is wrong.”
She was asked if she or the family considered whether Davante was just looking to disappear, to start from scratch and leave his old life behind.
“The only thing keeping me from believing that is, once again, his relationship with his mother — I just don’t believe he’d abandon her that way,” she said.
Lassiter said she, too, fears something bad happened to Davante and that his vehicle was “dumped” near Greybull by someone who didn’t know the area. Whatever it is, she said she simply wants closure for the family.
On that point, everyone agreed.
While numerous attempts were made, without success, to contact the investigating officer in Washington, D.C., Krieder said anyone with information about Davante’s disappearance can contact the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office at 307-568-2324.
“It’s still an open case and we’re still looking for leads,” he said.
Richardson has been described as a black male with a medium brown complexion. He stands 6 feet, 1 inch in height and weighed 170 pounds at the time of his disappearance.