Chris Lott last hugged her father 13 years ago.
She was 20 at the time, a senior in college at Christopher Newport University in Newport News. She had driven to Richmond to ask him for fatherly advice, said Lott, who is now 33 and living in New Orleans. He always had time to listen.
“What sticks with me is that we hugged before I headed back to campus,” she said in an interview Monday. “It’s haunting.”
Her father, Benjamin Lott, disappeared shortly thereafter. Chris Lott said the family and police have no idea why or how he went missing.
On Sept. 26, 2008, he’d called into work and asked for the day off, and hasn’t been heard from since.
“Every morning, I wake up hoping to be able to see and hear from him again, and give him a hug,” she said at a news conference called by Richmond police to bring attention to the case and two others on the anniversaries of their disappearances.
Robert Long, 55, was reported missing by his parents on Sept. 24, 2011; and Keeshae Jacobs, 21, hasn’t been heard from since a phone call with her mother, Toni Jacobs, on Sept. 26, 2016.
“We’ve all been waiting a long time,” Chris Lott said ahead of the news conference, applauding the department’s effort to galvanize public support for missing persons cases. “Hoping that our loved ones would return.”
“Keeping these cases active and in the public’s eye is personally important to me, but also to the family and friends of the missing: They have not been forgotten,” said Police Chief Gerald M. Smith on Monday. “We will never forget. We will never stop working. We will continue to strive until they come home. ... We will not give up that search.”
Unequal media attention and police response for some missing persons cases has become a national talking point following the disappearance of Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, a 22-year-old white woman reported missing on Sept. 11 after she did not return from a monthslong cross-country trip with her fiance.
Her remains were found days later, but not before a wide-reaching search from federal, state and local authorities and prime-time, daily coverage by national outlets.
In a Richmond Times-Dispatch story published Sunday, Toni Jacobs, who, like her missing daughter, is Black, said: “My heart breaks for everybody that has someone missing or murdered, but at the same time, none of this stuff was done for my baby. It makes me think what could they have done better, and if they would have done the same thing they did in Gabby’s case, would Keeshae be home?”
Richmond police launched an effort earlier this year to raise awareness of cases, at least locally, on the anniversaries of their disappearance.
On Monday, Smith encouraged people to share information about the cases on social media and to call Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000 with any tips, no matter how small.
It’s been five years for Toni Jacobs, who after Monday’s news conference said “any day now” she expected to hear from her daughter, who went missing on Sept. 26, 2016. Less than four months later, Jacobs’ son, Deavon, was shot and killed at a hotel on Midlothian Turnpike.
Keeshae was last seen with some friends in the Chimborazo area near Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood.
Detective Clarence Key said police interviewed a “main person of interest,” who is currently locked up on unrelated charges.
“Please help me, help my daughter, help all these families who have missing loved ones,” Toni Jacobs tearfully pleaded on Monday.
Benjamin Lott is also Black. He was 43 at the time he went missing
Key said Lott had been a “model employee.” He worked at a Wachovia bank in western Henrico County and had called in on Sept. 26, 2008, asking for the day off.
“From that point on, no one heard from him,” Key said Monday.
After missing several days at work, which was unusual for Lott, Key said, colleagues reached out to his family, who officially reported him missing on Oct. 2, 2008.
Lott’s car, a 2006 black Saturn, was found in a Chesterfield County parking on Oct. 1, Key said. That’s where the trail ended.
Chris Lott said she’s hoping for answers, for her and her family, “and closure, so we can heal.”
Robert Long, who is white, has been missing for 10 years. At the time, his parents expressed concerns about his mental health, Key said.
Though Long was living in the city’s West End at the time of his disappearance in 2011, he frequently panhandled and had at times been homeless.
Key said he was known to police, who searched local shelters and mental health facilities to no avail.