Three arrested in connection with disappearance of missing man Cole Thomas

SMITHFIELD, North Carolina (WTVD) -- Three people have been arrested in connection with the disappearance of Christopher Cole Thomas, 22, who was reported as a missing person in November 2016.

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Authorities said investigators were told that Thomas and two friends were driving home to Florida for Thanksgiving on November 25 when he suddenly stopped his car and jumped out in Johnston County - vanishing in Benson. Thomas had texted his father the day before his strange disappearance.

Cole Thomas

In the weeks and months that followed, his family came from Florida to search for him.

"Today marks 235 days since our son Cole Thomas vanished from our lives, this has been the most devastating thing that has hit our family, ever," Thomas' father told ABC11 in a statement Tuesday. "We have desperately waited for answers to where Cole is, we pray this will be the start of finding him."

"We will continue to seek the truth and will not give up, not give in until Cole Thomas is home again and whoever is responsible for his disappearance or harming him is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," he continued.


Last week, investigators from the Benson Police Department and the NC State Bureau of Investigation presented their findings to date on the Thomas investigation to a Johnston County Grand Jury, and multiple indictments were subsequently handed down.

On Monday, the Benson Police Department, the Wayne County Sheriff's Department, the Harnett County Sheriff's Department, and the NC State Bureau of Investigation conducted arrest operations in Wayne County and Harnett County, and took Julian Valles Jr., Rudolfo DeLeon Jr, and Anthony Ridell James Jr. into custody.

They were transported to the Johnston County Jail in Smithfield and ordered held on the following charges:

Julian Valles Jr., 34, of Dudley, NC
3 counts Felony Obstruction of Justice
1 count Felony Concealment of a Death
$750,000 Secured Bond

Anthony Ridell James Jr., 26, of Mt. Olive, NC
1 count Felony Obstruction of Justice
1 count Felony Concealment of a Death
$350,000 Secured Bond

Rudolfo DeLeon Jr., 27, of Mt. Olive, NC
1 count Felony Concealment of a Death
$1,000,000 Secured Bond

According to search warrants, Valles told police last November that he was sitting in the rear passenger seat of the car Thomas was driving, when Thomas parked the car and ran off with the keys at the intersection of E. Morgan and N. Elm streets.

Search warrants also revealed investigators combed through Thomas' Facebook Page and traced what they thought might be activity on his email account being used in New Jersey at an educational testing service.

All three suspects were booked into the Johnston County Jail and were being processed Monday night.

No body has been found. Efforts to reach Thomas' family for comment have been unsuccessful.
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