Waiting for Richardo: Mother looks for answers about son’s disappearance

Published 11:50 pm Saturday, April 28, 2018


ST. JOSEPH — Sarah Miles has not seen her son in 332 days.

On June 2, 2017, Miles said goodbye to her son, Richardo Miles, on a sunny day before she left for work.

Email newsletter signup

Richardo was 29 years old at the time, though, by now, he would be 30.

He and his grandmother, Flora Miles, decided to go fishing at a little inlet close to the Lake St. Joseph Lighthouse, a local eatery in Newellton.

Before Sarah went to work that day, she told her son she would see him later. They planned to have dinner, as they did many nights.

It was a good day for fishing, temperature in the low 80s, a slight wind from the northeast, but Flora said she does not remember them catching anything before a man in a white truck pulled up.

“He told me, ‘I’ll be back in 10,’” Flora remembers.

Then he got in the white truck and rode away.

His family has not seen him since.

“He wouldn’t leave them out there alone,” Sarah Miles said as she sat inside her residence recently. “He wouldn’t leave his grandmother out by the water by herself.”

But as the 10 minutes turned to 20 and the hours grew longer, Flora said her grandson never returned.

At first, Sarah said she thought maybe he had just forgotten to call.

She went to work Saturday and Sunday, thinking her son would walk back through the door — thinking she would have to fuss at him for making her worry.

But he never did.

Richardo Miles was born in Indiana on Feb. 14, 1988. Sarah was young.

She was living in California at the time, though she later moved down to St. Joseph, Louisiana, where she had family.

Sarah said Richardo was a sweet child. He got into trouble sometimes, like most children do, but he was happy.

He married his high school flame, Andrea, just a few years after graduating. They had a son together.

Sarah still spent time between California and Louisiana, though that nomadic lifestyle would come to an end when her son disappeared.

“He used to come see me in California,” Sarah said. “We would laugh and talk. It was a really good time in my life.”

The following Monday after Richardo had disappeared and still not come home, Sarah called the Tensas Parish Sheriff’s Office, which currently has three unsolved missing person cases. Two of the three, however, occurred more than a decade ago, under a different administration and different circumstances.

The case of Richardo Miles is an outlier for the sheriff’s office, said chief deputy Rob Rushing.

“We know he went with someone, but that’s the last thing we know he did,” Rushing said. “We really haven’t had much to go on. We’ve exhausted all avenues of the investigation.”

Rushing said deputies started at the last known location — the inlet off Lake St. Joseph between Hillcrest Drive and Main Street.

The Lighthouse, a tin building known for its fried fish and hushpuppies, has two video cameras pointed toward their parking lot.

Deputies retrieved the footage, which showed Richardo getting into a white farm truck, and riding away.

“You could see him getting in the truck on the camera,” said Debby McGee, co-owner of the Lighthouse with her husband, Wesley. “It’s such a terrible situation. I hate it for the family.”

Wesley McGee said he was cutting grass on that day — and that he remembers Richardo.

“They were fishing, and I didn’t really think anything of it,” Wesley McGee said. “He just got in the truck with the fella and drove off.”

The man in the white truck — arguably the last man to see Richardo alive — is known to investigators but they would not disclose his name for this story.

He has been in for questioning several times, Rushing said.

The person, who declined to be interviewed for this story, told investigators he had indeed picked up Richardo on June 2. John said he left Richardo at an intersection in Newellton and had driven away.

“I can’t get into the body of it, but at the end of everything, he wanted an attorney,” Rushing said. “At that time, we had to stop the interview.”

The initial hunt for Richardo encompassed all manner of law enforcement — state police, FBI and aid from Catahoula and Ouachita sheriff’s offices.

Helicopters drifted across the sky — one of which carried Rushing for a time — but all the equipment and all the men could not find anything.

“It’s like he was just gone,” Sarah said as she rode down a dusty dirt road near Newellton, near a farm where Richardo used to work. “It hurts so much. Every day I wonder, Where is he? Where is my son?”

Hours after leaving his grandmother on the banks on the day he went missing, Sarah said her daughter received a text from Richardo asking for his uncle’s phone number.

“Why would he ask her for that?” Sarah said. “He would have his uncle’s number. They were close.”

Rushing said though he would not divulge specific information concerning the ongoing investigation, he could confirm that many phones were traced, including Richardo’s.

“We’ve done everything we could with everything we had to go on,” Rushing said. “We track down rumors and more often than not, when we get to the bottom of it, that’s what they are — rumors.”

Sometimes, Sarah said she believes her son might be dead; other times, she has hope. Normally, she wishes they could just find something, anything, final.

The constant strain — the not knowing — hurts, she said.

In early 2018, Sarah said one of her friends texted her and told her the sheriff’s office had found a body at Tensas High School.

Sarah said she drove to the school frantically, but the body was not her son.

“It was a baby,” she said. “They found a baby in the Dumpster.”

Someone’s child, she said, but not hers.

Rushing said deputies identified the person who left the baby in the Dumpster that day.

That case was solved, but Ricardo’s case remains.

“The investigation … it’s not at a halt,” Rushing said. “It’s so unfortunate for the family, but we’ve done everything we can do at this time. Until something happens, we get a tip or find a break, this is where we are.”

After a year, however, the signs of the investigation are less evident. The helicopters have flown home; outside law enforcement have other cases they must investigate.

And sometimes, Sarah said, she feels like she is the only one still looking.

“I still ask all the time,” she said. “I go somewhere, and I see somebody who knew him and I ask them, ‘What do you know about my son?’”

Piles of missing person posters dot Sarah’s home. She puts them out still, hoping something will come of it.

Similarly, Sarah herself has been marked. Sarah said she feels tired. Her blood pressure has risen sharply in the past year.

Richardo has his mother’s eyes. In the photo Sarah chose for his missing person poster, Richardo’s heavy lids are set over a perpetual smile. Sarah’s eyes are the same, but she finds herself frowning more and more.

“Sometimes,” she said. “I think it’s killing me.”

Rushing said the sheriff’s office has not given up, either.

“Every time we make an arrest, we ask about him,” Rushing said. “You know, sometimes you solve cases that way. You ask somebody what they know and, to help themselves, they tell you.”

Rushing also recently entered Richardo’s case information into FACES Laboratory, the Louisiana Repository for Missing and Unidentified Persons.

“I don’t consider this a cold case,” Rushing said. “I know it’s been a year, but we’re still here.”

Back on the dirt road in early March, however, Sarah said she wonders if she will ever find out what happened to her son.

“I can’t go anywhere until I know,” she said. “Sometimes I look out at these bayous and think, ‘Nobody would ever find him here.’ There’s no way to search it all.”