Local News

Family of Cole Thomas to come face-to-face with suspects during bond hearing

Posted August 9
Updated 4:59 p.m. Monday

— Family members of Cole Thomas gathered again in Johnston County Wednesday for the latest hearing of the three men charged in his death.

It was their first opportunity to be face-to-face with Julian Valles Jr, 34, of Dudley, and Anthony Ridell James Jr., 26, and Rudolfo DeLeon Jr., 27, both of Mount Olive, are each charged with one count each of felony concealment of a death in Thomas’s November disappearance.

A fourth man, Jeremy Carpenter, was arrested in Minnesota and was charged with four counts of obstruction of justice and one count of felony concealment of a death.

"It's going to be awkward," Thomas's aunt, Teresa Cruce said. "We need closure, peace. We need him to come home."

Relatives drove up from Florida every two weeks for eight months to help search for Thomas, who was reported missing on Nov. 25.

Christopher Cole Thomas

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 told 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. His body has not been found.

Valles was initially jailed under a $750,000 bond, James under a $350,000 bond, DeLeon under a $1 million bond and Carpenter under a $500,000 secured bond.

Cruse said the family is worried a judge will lower the suspects respective bonds and the men will run away.

"We need justice for Cole," Cruse said. "We beg the court to not reduce their bonds."

On Wednesday, James' bond was lowered to $200,000, but Carpenter's bond remained the same. DeLeon's case was continued to Sept. 5.

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