Family of missing 20 year old wants heightened search - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Family of missing 20 year old wants heightened search

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Dashad Smith Dashad Smith
HENRICO, VA (WWBT) -

The family of a teen who went missing from Charlottesville late last year is speaking out. They claim investigators aren't doing enough to find him. But officers say they're working hard and will continue to search a Henrico landfill this month.

Police in Charlottesville say their search for evidence will continue. They're planning to return to the Old Dominion Landfill. Meantime, a support official for transgender people is also weighing in.

"Even if you see his pictures, it just exudes happiness. It's infectious. He loved life," said relative Kenneth Jackson.

Those closest to Dashad Smith are not losing hope their loved one will return home. Smith, 19 at the time, went missing in November. Police believe he went to an Amtrak Station to possibly meet Erik McFadden before he disappeared. Officers consider McFadden a person of interest, but he has not been named a suspect. He denied meeting Smith and has since left town.

"I strongly believe him and Dashad met that night. What happened after that meeting? There's 38 minutes worth of phone {conversation that} got turned off and never turned on again. Somewhere in that 38 minutes, something happened. We will not know what happened until we get McFadden back to question him and actually find out what's going on," Jackson said.

Investigators' plans to search a Henrico County landfill Tuesday fell through, but they say they will return this month to continue searching for clues.

"Republic Services {the parent company of the Old Dominion Landfill} are more than willing to cooperate with Charlottesville Police as they investigate," said General Manager Tim Loveland.

But Jackson says his family wants a nationwide search in their loved one's disappearance and is calling on state police and the FBI to get involved in helping to find him. They also wonder if the fact that Smith sometimes dressed as a woman is linked to the fact he's still missing.

"People who cross those boundaries are targeted," said Ted Heck, a facilitator for transgender support group Richmond Transformers.

He says while he doesn't know what happened to Smith, a number of factors could come into play.

"There was a statewide study done that showed that 40% of trans- identified people had experienced some form of physical violence and many more than once," Heck added.

He also says it's important people like Smith have an outlet to vent.

"There's a lot of pressure in our society to conform to traditional gender norms. The isolation that people experience can put them into very dangerous situations," he said.

Heck says there are several resources in Central Virginia, including Richmond Transformers and the Richmond Organization for Sexual Minority Youth (ROSMY), where transgender people can go for support.

A $10,000 reward is now available through a private donation for Smith's safe return home. If you have any information, call Crime Stoppers at (434) 977-4000.

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