Friends and family of Cole Thomas not losing hope despite dropped charges against former suspects

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SMITHFIELD, N.C. (WNCN) — Family and friends of Cole Thomas say they are not giving up hope his case will be solved, despite prosecutors dropping charges against four former suspects in Thomas’ disappearance.

Thomas, 22, disappeared in Benson on Nov. 25, 2016. His body has never been found.

“Gosh, it’s a letdown, but they understand long term it’s going to help down the road,” said private investigator David Marshburn who began looking into the case in the months after Thomas vanished.

On Wednesday, Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle said the case remains open as the SBI continues to investigate. She said the current charges were dismissed “in order to avoid compromising any potential future homicide prosecutions.”

“We are very disappointed about where we stand in Cole’s case today. It has been a long journey that we will continue to live through every day,” said Thomas’ father, Chris Thomas, in a statement.

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 Thomas’ disappearance.

While they each faced a series of various charges – all were charged with felony concealment of a death.

Both Marshburn and Thomas’ father say they feel the case against the four men is far from over and are optimistic more serious charges will be filed.

“We have obtained a lot of information that leads back to these four individuals that can lead to a homicide. That’s what this is, a homicide.”

During a hearing in August 2017, the prosecution told the court that Thomas, Valles, and Carpenter devised a plan to drive from Minnesota to North Carolina purchase a large amount of methamphetamine from DeLeon.

“I feel like my son’s association with the four individuals, his homicide was not given priority or was not as important. He only knew them a very short time. He made a mistake getting in the car with these guys, but I assure you he was nothing like them,” said Chris Thomas in a statement.

Thomas and Marshburn started the Search for Me Foundation to work on other missing person cases. Marshburn says they have never stopped working on Thomas’ case.

“One way or another we are going to get the answers,” he said.

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