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A year later, family still searches for New London man, offers $5,000 reward

New London — It’s been more than a year since Paige Knobel has seen or heard from her father, Tom Doolan. But she hasn’t given up hope that someone, somewhere knows what happened to him.

All year, Knobel has been tirelessly looking for her father, who went missing from New London last December. She organizes search parties every month, has collected donations for a reward for any information on his whereabouts and checks his accounts for any sign of activity, though she knows there will be none.

Doolan, who would be 60 now, had been living in a sober house at 57 Berkeley Ave. for several months when he seemingly vanished into thin air on Dec. 6, 2019.

On that morning, Knobel picked up the phone and talked to her dad, not knowing it would be the last time she would hear his voice. Doolan, who has a history of mental illness, suicidal tendencies and drug addiction, was in a manic state.

“He just wasn’t making any sense,” said his only daughter, who lives in Colchester.

Doolan texted Knobel that morning and said, "I love you more than anything in the world, that's why I want to get some help." He told her he was coming to Colchester, where he had spent most of his life before moving to New London for a fresh start in the sober house.

Six minutes after he and Knobel got off the phone, he called his therapist. After that, no one ever heard from him again.

“I just don’t understand how people can just vanish like this,” Knobel said. “Nowadays you’d think it would be impossible to go off the grid.”

According to the New London Police Department, the case of Doolan’s disappearance is still open but there haven’t been any leads.

Knobel said the last update she received from investigators was information from her father’s cellphone — on Dec. 6, 2019, it pinged in Norwich, then in Bozrah not long after, she said.

Before his cellphone, issued by the state, was turned off due to inactivity, Knobel called over and over, hoping her dad would pick up.

But he never did.

Knobel thinks her dad, who didn’t own a car, must have been in an Uber, a taxi or had gotten a ride from someone after she spoke to him the day he disappeared. Doolan primarily used his bike to get around, Knobel said, but it wouldn’t have been possible for him to have been traveling quickly enough on his bike for his phone to ping in Norwich and Bozrah. She said she doesn’t understand how whoever was driving him that day has never come forward.

Doolan’s bike has never been found, and neither has his wallet, cellphone or tablet.

Investigators and search dogs in March scoured a 40-mile radius from where Doolan’s phone last pinged, Knobel said, but found nothing. She organized her own search not long after, bringing a group of friends, family and co-workers to search that area in Norwich, looking along railroad tracks and near the water, along Route 2 and into Jewett City and Bozrah. Every month, they’ve spent at least one long, exhausting day searching for any sign of him, but have found nothing.

Knobel is now offering a $5,000 reward for any information on what happened to her father and plans to hang fliers this week advertising the reward to help bring attention to his case, although she’s lost hope that any tips will lead to finding him alive.

“It seems like people aren’t sharing information about him as much. It’s understandable because it’s been so long that a lot of people don’t have hope, I don’t have hope,” she said. “I know deep down that my dad is gone, I just don’t know where he is.”

“I’m lost and feel hopeless that I’ll never find him to lay him to rest and have a place to just sit and talk to him,” she wrote in a Facebook post earlier this month, on the anniversary of the day she last spoke with her dad.

“At this point we just want to recover his body,” said Knobel’s mom, Suzanne Cordova. “We know he’s gone.”

At the beginning of every month, Knobel calls to check the balance on her father’s Social Security and EBT cards, just in case they’ve been used. Money is added to them every month — the balance on one of the card’s has risen to over $9,000 — but not a cent has been spent.

Knobel’s profile picture on Facebook is still a photo of her and her dad on her wedding day last year. Doolan had gotten sober in time to attend the wedding, and had been sober for 18 months when he disappeared.

The last time Knobel saw her dad was on Dec. 1, when they went to Walmart and her sons — Patrick, who turns 7 this month, and Logan, 3. Doolan picked out Christmas gifts for his grandsons — a Leapfrog dinosaur for Logan and two Lego sets for Patrick — but never got to give them to the boys.

Though Doolan suffered with mental illness and addiction most of his life, his daughter said he never missed a birthday or holiday. That’s how she knows, and knew right away, that something terrible had happened to him.

On Thanksgiving last year, her dad joined his family for dinner but was acting erratic, she said.

“He was all over the place, he was not making sense,” she said, adding that her father had been prescribed psychiatric medication by his doctor. She suggested that he stop taking it and thinks that when he did, “he just spiraled.”

All year, Knobel has been trying to keep her father’s disappearance in the public eye. In addition to organizing the searches, she checks in with police and shares his story on social media, all while raising her sons, as her husband serves in the Navy and often is deployed for months at a time. Her boys, she said, still remember their grandfather and ask about him.

Someday, she hopes to have answers for her sons and for herself. She hopes that offering a reward will encourage anyone with any information to come forward and help her find him.

“We don’t even care what the story is, we won’t ask questions, we just want to know where he is,” she said.

Anyone with any information about Doolan’s disappearance is asked to contact Knobel at (860) 639-1356.

t.hartz@theday.com

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