AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – A veteran, father and brother walked out of his South Augusta home back in 1991, never to return again. Now, the family wants the public to hear his story in hopes of getting more answers about that day.
Photos and a few memories. That’s all that Randy Birchfield has left when it comes to his big brother.
“He’d always be the first person that would wake up and he’d always come get us up, take us downstairs and like ‘hey, look what we got for Christmas.’ He’d always be the one to hand out the presents and all,” Randy Birchfield said.
Born in 1961, Daniel Alan Birchfield, known by his loved ones as Danny, grew up taking a leadership role with his brothers and sister.
The young baseball player attended Butler High School. He was a member of the Psychology Club. He turned his tassel in 1979 and joined the Air Force. All of a sudden, the brother who lovingly teased Dino Birchfield was no longer around.
“Jump on me. Climb on top, put his knees over my ears and just sit on top of me and just pick at me,” Anthony Dean “Dino” Birchfield recalled. “I’d be screaming I can’t breathe even though my nose and mouth was open and my ears were shut. He would do that for 35-40 minutes to an hour.”
Danny’s brothers Randy and Dino told us he married young. He had his son Joey in 1982 while the family lived in Maine at Loring Air Force Base. Danny relocated back to Augusta and divorced. He soon fell in love with another man.
“It was going great with them,” Randy told us. “They had a place out there in Pepperidge. Had a nice house and they got along great. Of course, they had their arguments at times, but Victor loved my brother. He’d tell you I loved him a lot. The new relationship was good.”
The family added that Danny and his partner also worked together at Maneline Hair Studio. Back then the business was on Wrightsboro Road, near Christenberry Fieldhouse.
“Washing the heads,” Dino remembered. “Washing people’s hair before Victor cut them.”
The Birchfield family remained close. Dino said as adults, he and his brother got to know each other a little better while they played BINGO at American Legion Post 178.
“He was playing first and I just wanted to see how it was. I wanted to win some money,” Dino laughed. “Just like a bigger brother, he was making sure I wasn’t missing anything, checking out mine. It was a connection after all these years. We were always just cutting up and talking.”
But between BINGO calls, Dino knew something was wrong with his brother, like he was hiding something. When he questioned him about what was troubling him, Danny revealed shocking information.
“He said if I ever got real sick, I would just go off and whatever happens, happens. I wouldn’t put none of y’all through anything.”
And Dino recalled that their mother believed Danny really was sick at one point.
“I remember him being on a phone call with my mom one time being real sick. And my mom getting off the phone crying saying something was wrong with him, that he was sick,” he said.
Within a year, he was gone.
Family members said he was taking care of his partner’s elderly loved one at the time and would not leave his own mother either.
“We never got a phone call. When his son’s birthday would go by, you wouldn’t hear from him or Christmas, days like that. You’d never hear from him and that’s when I knew he wasn’t coming back,” Randy said.
Danny’s mother, a Gary, Indiana native and touring opera singer, mourned her first born child until she could finally pick up the phone and call authorities. That was two years later. The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office reports Birchfield was reportedly last seen on September 20, 1991, voluntarily leaving Stoney Brook Drive in Augusta. The 30-year-old was with two men no one knew.
Randy recalled, “She cried every day until the day she passed away not knowing what happened to her son.”
Family members told us a little bit more about the day Danny Birchfield left his Stoney Brook Drive home in Pepperidge. They said he was at home washing dishes and a car pulled up in the yard. He walked outside and leaned into that car and spoke with three individuals before getting into that car and leaving. He was never seen again. Birchfield was wearing cut off jean shorts. No shirt. No shoes.
“I was right there while she was on the phone with the psychic,” Dino said.
Some time in the 90s, Dino said he remembers their mother calling a national psychic hotline. She spoke with the late Sylvia Browne back then who hinted where Danny might be located.
“He disappeared within a mile from the house that he was at,” Dino repeated what the psychic told his mother. “That he is buried in a shallow grave near railroad tracks.”
Cold Case Project looked within a one mile radius from Danny’s Pepperidge home and found a set of railroad tracks going through Phinizy Road, not far from the jail, which was not built in 1991.
“Me and my brother, we walked through there and looked around a bunch of times, just the railroad tracks, just for like for memories to look down there and see what we could see. I felt like there was something there,” Dino said.
Renetta asked, “From what you could gather from your own research, what do you think happened to your brother.”
“Exactly what I’ve heard. I had a young lady call me and tell me, she said this is exactly what happened to your brother….,” Randy began.
That’s all we can allow Randy Birchfield to say because investigators have not charged anyone with Danny Birchfield’s disappearance and they have not reported that the case is suspicious nor has a body been recovered. We can tell you that the family no longer believes Danny is alive. Randy told us he strongly thinks he now has information about his brother being murdered. And believes the killer is already in jail, serving a life sentence for an unrelated crime.
“He didn’t just go off and die on his own,” Dino said. “I believe there’s foul play involved.”
Randy added, “My mom passed away so she will never know what happened to him. She did ask me, her last words were, find out what happened to your brother so hopefully we can get some kind of justice done.”
Birchfield has not been heard from since 1991 and all leads from the time he was reported missing were investigated, according to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office. There have been no new leads in this case. Anyone with any information about Birchfield, should contact any Investigator at the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office at (706) 821-1020 or (706) 821-1000.
Next time on the Cold Case Project we take you to Aiken, South Carolina where Janice Wessinger disappeared and was found later brutally murdered in 1997. What family and law enforcement need to get justice and close the case.
Photojournalist: Regynal McKie