Seven months have passed since 21-year-old soldier Private Richard Halliday disappeared from Fort Bliss Army Base in El Paso, Texas, and his family is pleading for answers.
“Today is day 214,” Richard’s mother, Patricia Halliday, told Dateline on Monday. “214 days without any answers. 214 days without my son.”
Despite more than 500 man hours devoted to search efforts over the past several months, officials said they still lack answers in the disappearance of the Fort Bliss Army private, according to a press conference held by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) in February.
Private Richard Halliday was last seen on July 23, 2020, leaving his on-post barracks room at the Fort Bliss Army Base in El Paso, Texas, according to the CID. He was wearing gray or turquoise cargo shorts, a gray t-shirt, and a charcoal gray zip-up hoodie, with dark gray running shoes with red, yellow, and white paint stains.
Richard, who is assigned to D Battery, 1-43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 11th Air Defense
Artillery Brigade, 32nd Army Air Missile Defense Command at Fort Bliss, was initially reported AWOL after he failed to report for duty the next day.
But it wasn’t until Day 36, more than a month after Richard was last seen, that his parents Robert and Patricia Halliday were made aware that he was missing. Richard’s mother Patricia told Dateline they called Richard’s commander at Fort Bliss to find out why they hadn’t heard from their son.
“We were told our son was no longer there, that he was a deserter,” Patricia said. “By then, it was day 36. So much time had passed. So much time wasted.”
On September 1, 2020, CID Special Agents assumed the investigation from Fort Bliss’ Directorate of Emergency Services after assistance was requested. An investigation revealed that there was no indication of foul play or any specific suspicious circumstances surrounding Richard’s disappearance.
At a press conference in February 2021, Fort Bliss commander Major General Sean Bernabe said that in the months since Richard’s disappearance, members of the Army's Criminal Investigation Division "have devoted over 540 investigative hours on this case, issued 50 subpoenas and five warrants, conducted over 160 interviews, and executed eight local searches.”
Major General Bernabe also acknowledged that they made mistakes in the early stages of the investigation, including failing to contact the Halliday family when Richard went missing.
"Despite attempts, we failed to make timely initial contact with the Halliday Family when we discovered Pvt. Halliday missing,” Bernabe said. “This failure caused us to lose the trust of the Halliday Family. We are working hard to regain their trust.”
He added that the second mistake was the slow response in getting assistance from the CID to help in the investigation.
“Our failure drove us to change the procedures we take here at Fort Bliss when we discover that a soldier’s whereabouts are unknown,” Bernabe said.
He added that a soldier’s disappearance will now be determined by evidence rather than just the assumption that he or she deserted the armed forces.
"Fort Bliss continues to make a broad appeal for information from the public to help us find Pvt. Richard Halliday," Bernabe said. "We owe it to every family and every service member to search for missing soldiers until that solider is found."
Richard’s parents met with officials Monday, but told Dateline they left feeling more frustrated and without any answers.
“We still don’t know what happened and we still don’t have our son,” Patricia said. “All I know is you just can’t disappear from the barracks without someone knowing. Someone knows something and all we want is for them to come forward.”
Patricia and Robert adopted Richard from Poland when he was just five years old. They were stationed in Germany until Robert retired from the military. But the family continued to live abroad in Germany and Ireland for most of Richard’s life.
“We homeschooled and he learned to speak German and Korean,” Patricia told Dateline. “And he played piano and had a black belt in karate… we all got to travel all over the world and experience so much.”
Being the son and grandson of military veterans, Richard was determined to join the Army and pay his way through college.
But six months before he disappeared, Richard began to talk about wanting to get out of the Army and said that he was having issues with army leadership.
“The first 14 months, he did really well,” Patricia said. “But then something happened and he seemed different. But he didn’t want to confide in us. We encouraged him to finish.”
After Richard’s disappearance, officials followed multiple tips and leads, but none led them to Richard. There was no indication of foul play or any specific suspicious circumstances surrounding his disappearance after CID officials conducted an in-depth forensic search of his barracks room.
Officials have also conducted searches of the area around Fort Bliss, including sinkholes, water drainages, water sewage systems, canals, railroad tracks (on and off-post), homeless shelters and approximately 20 miles of trails in the Franklin Mountain State Park and Indian Peak Trail. Army aviation assets also assisted in the search of Franklin Mountain State Park.
“We take this very seriously and a host of other investigative techniques have been employed in the search for Pvt. Halliday and we will continue to investigate until we determine what happened to this soldier,” said Chris Grey, spokesman for Army CID. “If anyone has any information, we ask you to come forward and share it with us.”
Richard’s family has created their own tip hotline (941) 677-0060 and the Facebook page “Find Richard Halliday” in the hope of collecting information that could lead to their son. Patricia goes “live” on the page nearly every day with updates about Richard’s case or to make a plea for any new tips.
“We just want to find our son,” Patricia pleaded. “Any bit of information might be what finally leads us to him.”
Richard is described as being 5’9” tall and weighing 162 lbs. He has black hair and brown eyes.
Anyone with information on Richard’s whereabouts is asked to call the Fort Bliss CID Office at 915-568-1700, the Fort Bliss Military Police at 915-744-1237 or anonymously submit information at https://www.cid.army.mil/report-a-crime.html. You can also call the family’s “Find Richard Halliday” hotline at (941) 677-0060.