Local News

8 months later, family continues search for Cole Thomas

Posted July 22

— With the arrests of three men in connection to the case, it is clear police believe 22-year-old Cole Thomas is dead, but friends and family members have not given up hope.

Friends and family continued to comb through brush in Benson on Saturday. Thomas's cousin Teresa Cruce has come to the area every two weeks since his disappearance.

"It's hard, and it's devastating," Cruce said. "Cole didn't deserve this and he deserves to be found."

She said they won't stop until they have found him.

Christopher Cole Thomas

Thomas was reported missing on Nov. 25. Two friends said he was driving home to Florida for Thanksgiving dinner from a job in Minnesota when he pulled off Interstate 95, hopped out of the car near North Elm and East Morgan streets in Benson and vanished.

One month later, investigators learned that Thomas had been involved in a drug deal before his disappearance. The two men who were with Thomas confirmed to authorities that they had purchased methamphetamine from an acquaintance. After the deal, they said, Thomas became paranoid and started driving erratically before he stopped the car in Benson and ran off.

Last week, investigators from the Benson Police Department and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation presented the findings of an investigation into Thomas’ disappearance to a grand jury, who handed down multiple indictments.

Julian Valles Jr, 34, of Dudley, Anthony Ridell James Jr. 26, of Mt. Olive, and Rudolfo DeLeon Jr, 27, of Mount Olive, were charged with one count each of felony concealment of a death.

But his family, friends and others in Benson's tight-knit community are hoping to bring him home.

"We just want to know where Cole's at," Cruce said. "We won't give up, our family won't stop, until we have Cole, and justice is served."

Authorities said no further information about the indictments against the suspects in this case would be released because of court proceedings and an ongoing investigation


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