UPDATE: On March 3, 2023 the Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office announced that 59-year-old James Brenner has been charged with “criminal homicide, aggravated murder” and “abuse or desecration of a human body” in connection with the disappearance of Dylan Rounds. Dateline reached out to Brenner’s attorney for comment but has not yet heard back.
Read more here.
UPDATE: On July 7, 2022, the Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office announced that 58-year-old James Brenner is considered a suspect in Dylan's disappearance. Dateline spoke with Box Elder County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Cade Palmer in November. The chief deputy would not expand on the evidence that led officials to name Brenner a suspect, but did say that they have collected "substantial evidence" and "it seems like every bit of good evidence that we find points more at Brenner." Chief Deputy Palmer added that Brenner is not talking to law enforcement about Dylan's disappearance at this time. Dateline reached out to Brenner’s attorney for comment but has not yet heard back.
“He had a lot of goals,” Justin Rounds told Dateline about his son, Dylan. “He had a future in mind.”
Dylan Rounds was last seen on Thursday, May 26, 2022, in Montello, Nevada, getting a bite to eat at the Saddle Sore Bar.
Two days later, on Saturday, May 28, 2022, the 19-year-old spoke with his maternal grandmother on the phone. Dylan’s mother, Candice Cooley, told Dateline that her mother said Dylan had to hang up because it was raining and he needed to move some equipment. “He said, ‘It’s raining. I can't talk to you right now,’” Candice told Dateline. “‘I gotta get my seed truck.’”
Dylan is a farmer and Candice told Dateline he needed to move his truck into the shed so the “seeds wouldn’t get ruined.”
No one has heard from Dylan since.
Dylan Rounds grew up in Idaho with a younger brother and sister. Justin told Dateline that when Dylan was about four years old, he and Candice divorced. The kids then split their time between Idaho Falls, where Justin lives, and Twin Falls, where Candice lives.
According to Justin, Idaho life meant outdoor life. He told Dateline the family would often go fishing and dirt biking. But those activities came second to what Justin says is the most important part of Idaho living: farming. Justin told Dateline that almost every conversation he has with Dylan is about farming. “He’s just done that all his life,” Justin said. “That’s all he thought about.”
“He's one of those people that was born to be a farmer,” Candice Cooley told Dateline. “The kid could drive a tractor before most kids knew how to ride a bike.”
In 2019, Dylan was finally able to secure a farm of his own in Lucin, Utah – which is right on the Utah/Nevada border. Justin said his father, Dylan’s grandfather, purchased the land with Dylan, who spent his days cultivating the crop and his nights living alone in a camper on the property.
“It’s sandy desert,” Candice said, describing Lucin. “It’s literally people who want to be off the grid.”
“This year was his first crop,” Candice said. She told Dateline that Dylan’s farm had to be built from the ground up. “There was a lot of preparation that needed to be done.”
Justin said that while the farm was Dylan’s top priority, his son would often return to Idaho and stay with either of his parents because of the lack of running water in his camper.
On May 26, however, Dylan was not visiting either of his parents, but he did speak with each of them on the phone. “He was so excited,” Candice recalled. “He said, ‘Mom, I’m getting my first crop this year.’”
Justin remembers speaking to Dylan that day, too. “He was talking about the different types of tractors that he was running,” Justin said. “The service was spotty.” That was the last time Justin or Candice spoke to their son.
On Monday, May 30, Candice said she received an alarming call from J.D. Wilde, Dylan’s best friend. Candice told Dateline that J.D. informed her that no one had heard from Dylan since Saturday. “I instantly knew we had a problem,” Candice said.
Candice told Dateline it was extremely unusual for Dylan to go so long without speaking to anybody. “Dylan breaks his phones. He loses phone chargers,” Candice said. “But he shows up at his father’s house or my house within a matter of hours to get a spare one.”
Candice said since neither she nor her ex-husband had seen their son -- she immediately thought something bad might have happened.
Later that day, Candice reported Dylan missing and they immediately began the search.
“The boots were found within the first hour,” Candice told Dateline, on Dylan’s property. Candice told East Idaho News reporter Nate Eaton that the boots were “behind a pile of dirt just casually tossed out.” She noted that Dylan “was very particular about his boots. He wears a pair, and it’s always the same pair. When they wear out, he goes and buys exactly the same boots.”
Officials found the boots 100 yards south of where Dylan’s grain truck was parked which Candice told Dateline is in the opposite direction from his camper. “Our hearts dropped,” Candice said. “A kid doesn’t go walking in the desert without his boots.” Justin told Dateline that finding his son’s boots like that threw everyone for a loop. “Our brains were going a million different directions,” he said. “We didn’t know what to do.”
According to reporter Nate Eaton, Candice told East Idaho News that detectives found “a spot of blood” on the boots and they would be sent to a lab for testing. East Idaho News said that the family was told “police were hanging on to the boots in case cadaver dogs needed them for a scent,” which is why they were not sent for testing until a week later. East Idaho News also reported that Dylan’s wallet and phone are missing, but everything else seemed normal on the farm -- everything but Dylan’s maroon Ford pickup truck.
Candice told Dateline it looked like the truck had been pressure washed and that the seats had been moved. Candice told Nate Eaton of East Idaho News that because she is 4’11” and Dylan is 5’11,” she always has to move the driver’s seat up. But Candice said when she looked in Dylan’s truck on May 30, the seat “was scooted up to the point I didn’t even have to move it to drive.”
Candice added that Dylan’s truck was in four-wheel drive, but that was a feature of the truck that did not work. Candice told Nate Eaton that everyone in their family knew the four-wheel drive wasn’t working, because Dylan “often complained about not being able to use the feature and having to drive his truck without it.”
“There was some fishy stuff going on,” Candice told Dateline. On top of the red flags involving Dylan’s truck, she also said it had rained the weekend before Dylan was reported missing, but there was “no mud on the tires, there’s no tracks, no nothing.”
The Box Elder County Sheriff’s office is investigating Dylan’s disappearance. On May 31, they posted on their Facebook page, that Dylan’s case “continues to be an active missing person investigation.” It goes on to say that they are “working diligently to locate Dylan and continue to follow up on tips that we receive.” As of June 3, there has been “no updated information on new locations to search but are still searching the Lucin area.”
Candice told Dateline that she is extremely frustrated with how her son’s case is being handled. She said although deputies have been helpful with the search, she feels like Dylan’s case is being pushed to the side. “They left us out there with no assistance, no help, no guidance,” she said.
Justin shares Candice’s frustration. “They would never answer their phone,” Justin told Dateline about the Box County Sheriff’s Office. “They started helping out, I think, last Friday.”
Candice told Dateline that since Dylan’s farm is on the Utah-Nevada border, the Elko Police Department in Nevada is also assisting with the search.
The Elko County Sheriff’s Office posted a press release on June 9, 2022, which confirmed Dylan was last seen in “Montello before his disappearance on the 26th of May” and that he “ate at a local establishment and then returned to Utah.” Montello, Nevada is about 30 minutes away from the farm Dylan lived on in Lucin. The release adds that “cell phone data was used to track Dylan’s phone around his farm near Lucin, Utah.” It goes on to say that the “last cell phone communication from Dylan’s phone was on the 28th of May near his farm in Box Elder County,” and that officials could “confirm that phone call was made from the farm based off cell phone data.”
According to the release, the Elko County Sheriff’s Office “are directing people to Box Elder County in this case.” They also noted they are providing them with the resources they need to help find Dylan.
Candice told Dateline that the Weber County Sheriff’s Office in Ogden, Utah, also provided their resources. “They had a cadaver dog. They brought the chopper.” Candice said. “They did an amazing job with the area.”
But Candice said some of the most valuable help has been from their own community of people dedicated to helping bring Dylan home. “We had between 250 and 300 people out there,” Candice said. “Justin and I both have a very large support group.”
Candice said she also runs the “Find Dylan Rounds” Facebook page to share updates in the case, information about search parties, and photos of Dylan. She emphasized that there are currently no fundraisers open for her son.
Dylan is 19 years old, 5’11” tall, 160 lbs., with dark brown eyes and brown hair. Candice told Dateline he typically wears blue jeans, a flannel shirt, and a ball cap.
“He did not walk away from his lifelong dream,” Candice said, referring to his first crop on his own farm. “Dylan has no drug abuse, no substance abuse, no mental issues, no depression, no suicide thoughts, nothing,” she said. “I mean, everybody loved him.”
The family is offering a $20,000 reward for any information regarding Dylan’s whereabouts.
Anyone with information about Dylan Rounds is asked to contact the Box Elder County Sheriff’s office at 435-734-3800.