Dylan Sanford was a devoted father to his 4-year-old son.
The 27-year-old started and ran his own carpet-installation business.
He had disarming blue eyes and a boyish smile that ingratiated him to family as well as strangers.
And he is likely dead, according to his Manchester-area family, whose three-month search has been fruitless.
He was last seen the evening of Dec. 5 around the Market Street area of Somersworth, police in that town say.
According to his family, he had completed a 30-day program at the Farnum Center a day earlier.
Sanford called the mother of his son — Cheyla Perez — and told her he was in Somersworth, had overdosed and was revived with Narcan. That’s the last they heard from him.
Others in the family have posted on social media, looking for help in their search.
“We know he’s gone. We know he’s passed away. We can’t even bury him or have a gravesite to visit,” said his uncle, Bedford resident Joseph Daigle.
Daigle has visited Somersworth to comb the banks of the Salmon Falls River, put up posters and knocked on doors.
On Dec. 23, he held a memorial vigil for his nephew at Victory Park in Manchester.
“If a female his age goes missing, we hear all about it,” said Daigle’s wife, Kristi Daigle, “but because it’s Dylan, a healthy individual, and because he’s a drug addict, nobody wants to talk about it. I can feel to the core of me he’s no longer here.”
Somersworth police say they have entered Sanford into two national missing persons data bases and are actively investigating his disappearance.
Capt. Jim McLin said he cannot discuss details.
“We’re still hoping that he’s found. We’re hoping he’s found alive and well,” McLin said. He said he realizes that the longer time goes by, the more worrisome it becomes for the family.
Anyone who could help find Sanford should contact Somersworth police at 692-3131.
McLin said investigators have interviewed people, searched areas and executed warrants for a variety of electronic devices. New Hampshire Fish and Game searched the river in January, deploying sonar buoys to detect underwater objects.
Daigle points to several factors contributing to his pessimism.
Sanford had been using drugs at a building where residents carry guns and post handmade signs on their doors telling drug users to get lost.
Video surveillance shows Sanford visiting a market across the street from the building.
His empty wallet — it contained only Perez’ medical ID card — was found a half-mile from the store.
And a month after Sanford disappeared, the Great Falls mill caught fire, a fire that could have conveniently reduced a body to ashes, Daigle said.
Daigle acknowledges that Sanford could have overdosed and his fellow users could have hidden the body. The family rejects any notion that he just left.
“He talked to me every day. He has a son who he loves. He would never just disappear,” Perez said. “He wasn’t one of those grungy drug users. He was functioning.”
She said he was kind, talkative, likable and hard-working. The carpet installation business allowed him to earn enough money to pay for drugs, Daigle said.
Sanford had a tough childhood. Both his parents had problems with drugs and alcohol and neglected him at times, Daigle said.
Sanford grew up in California under the care of an aunt. When he was 11, his father, Ronald Norman, was found bludgeoned to death in his Allenstown apartment. The 2003 homicide remains unsolved and is listed with the Attorney General’s Cold Case Unit.
Then in September 2017 his mother died with an empty bottle of vodka on the floor beside her. That death hit Sanford hard, his family said.
“In the last couple of years, he just changed,” Kristi Daigle said. His life cycled between sobriety and drug use.
Perez distanced herself from him romantically because of the drugs, but she said Sanford maintained contact with his son.
“Justice would be nice,” Perez said, “but for me, I pray every night this family gets the answers, that (Sanford’s son) Brayden can have answers about his dad.”