Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle has dropped all charges against four men connected to the Thanksgiving night disappearance of Christopher “Cole” Thomas in 2016.
As the search for Thomas continued, a Johnston County grand jury was empaneled and in July of 2017 indicted the four men.
Charged in the case were Julian Valles Jr., 34, of Dudley, on three counts of felony obstruction of justice and one count of felony concealing a death; Rudolfo DeLeon Jr., 27, of Mount Olive, was charged with one count of felony concealment of a death; Anthony Ridell James Jr., 26, also of Mount Olive, was charged with one count of felony obstruction of justice and felony concealment of a death; and Jeremy Brian Carpenter, 42, of Taylor Falls, Minnesota, was charged with four counts of felony obstruction of justice and one count of felony concealment of a death.
All four men were held in the Johnston County Detention Center under secured bonds ranging from $350,000 to $1 million. They were later released after a bond reduction hearing.
“The investigation into the death of Cole Thomas is ongoing,” Doyle said. “The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation 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.”
Thomas was traveling with Valles and DeLeon from Minnesiota where they worked. Thomas abandoned his truck and his passengers during the trip and investigators have found no trace of him since.
The case has taken several twists and turns through the years. There were reports of Thomas having mental health concerns then allegations of him being involved in a drug deal surfaced as well as reports of Thomas becoming paranoid due to the use of methamphetamine before leaving the vehicle and his passengers behind on Thanksgiving night.
His truck was found, driver’s side door open and keys in the ignition, at the intersection of East Morgan and North Elm Street in Benson.
There has never been any official confirmation or denial of the drug allegations. A photo taken in a convenience store earlier in the evening along with a surveillance video allegedly showing Thomas around the time of the disappearance are the last publicly-known traces of the Live Oak, Florida man.