Local News

Charges dropped for 4 suspects in Cole Thomas disappearance

Posted September 25, 2019 10:52 a.m. EDT
Updated September 26, 2019 5:32 a.m. EDT

— Charges have been dropped against four men who were once connected to the disappearance of Cole Thomas.

Thomas, 22, was on his way from Minnesota to Florida for Thanksgiving when he was reported missing on Nov. 25, 2016. Friends said he exited Interstate 95, got out of the car near North Elm and East Morgan streets in Benson, and disappeared.

Julian Valles Jr., of Dudley, Anthony Ridell James Jr., of Mount Olive, Rudolfo DeLeon Jr., of Mount Olive and Jeremy Carpenter were charged in connection with his disappearance. The four men were charged with felony concealment of a death, while Valles, James and Carpenter also faced obstruction of justice charges.

On Wednesday, WRAL News contacted Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle for more information on why the charges were dropped.

"The investigation into the death of Cole Thomas is ongoing," Doyle said. "The SBI continues to follow up on all new information. After a thorough review of the case as it stands today, I made the decision to dismiss the current charges in order to avoid compromising any potential future homicide prosecutions.”

A representative for Thomas' family, who lives in Florida, said they are very disappointed in the turn of events.

"It has been a long journey that we will continue to live through every day," the family said on Facebook.

In months following the arrests, Doyle said Valles hatched a plan to tell authorities that Thomas had run off after a drug deal with the men.

Doyle also alleged that Valles called DeLeon and James to come to Benson after Thomas, Valles and Carpenter had bought methamphetamine from DeLeon in Wayne County because Thomas had thrown the drugs away. When all five met up in Benson, she said, "decisions were made" that led to Thomas' death.

In 2018, bonds were lowered for the suspects, allowing Valles and DeLeon to bond out in January. A judge lowered the bonds for James and Carpenter in March.

Thomas is presumed dead – Doyle called it "a homicide case" – but authorities have never found his body. Relatives of Thomas held out hope that he would be found in the months after he initially disappeared. Complete coverage on Cole Thomas.

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