Local News

Cole Thomas case: One suspect bonds out of jail

Posted February 1, 2018 4:23 p.m. EST
Updated February 1, 2018 5:32 p.m. EST

— One of the suspects who was in custody in connection with the disappearance of Cole Thomas in Johnston County has been released from jail after a judge reduced the bonds for him and two other suspects, authorities confirmed Thursday.

Julian Valles Jr. of Dudley, was released from the county jail on Jan. 25, several hours after Superior Court Judge Tom Lock sharply lowered his bond from $750,000 to $50,000. Three other suspects, Anthony Ridell James Jr. of Mount Olive, Rudolfo DeLeon Jr. of Mount Olive and Jeremy Carpenter remained in custody in connection with the disappearance of Thomas. The four men have been charged with felony concealment of a death, while. Valles, James and Carpenter also face obstruction of justice charges.

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.

The two men who were with Thomas later told investigators that, after they had purchased methamphetamine from an acquaintance, Thomas became paranoid and started driving erratically before he stopped the car and ran off.

Thomas is presumed dead – Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle recently 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.

During the January court hearing, Lock said the men had been in custody for about the length of time if they would be found guilty of the charges that have been filed against them. That prompted the judge to cut their bond amounts: The bond amount for James was dropped from $200,000 to $30,000, and the bond amount for DeLeon's was lowered to $40,000 from $500,000.

Carpenter, who did not have a bond hearing last month, remained in the Johnston County jail under a $500,000 bond.