Local News

Authorities searching Benson again for missing man

Posted October 25, 2017 10:22 a.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 1:40 p.m. EDT

— Eleven months after Cole Thomas disappeared in Benson, authorities were searching areas in town again Wednesday for his body.

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

The two friends later admitted to investigators that they and Thomas had been involved in a drug deal before his disappearance. They said they had purchased methamphetamine from an acquaintance and that Thomas then became paranoid and started driving erratically before he stopped the car and ran off.

Although his body hasn't been found, authorities believe he is dead and have charged four men.

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. 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.

"New information has been developed that has prompted additional search efforts," Benson Police Chief Kenneth Edwards said in a statement Wednesday. "The Benson Police Department, the NC State Bureau of Investigation and additional assisting law enforcement agencies are conducting a search of selected areas in the Town of Benson."

Edwards didn't elaborate on what new evidence has turned up in the case, but authorities fanned out across the southern half of Benson, walking neighborhood streets and using all-terrain vehicles to trek through fields and wooded areas.

Wednesday's search yielded no new clues, the chief said, adding that the case remains an active investigation.

Thomas' family has regularly come from Florida to search for him and to speak with law enforcement. Fliers with his photo are posted throughout Benson, and volunteers in the community have done their own searches.