SMITHFIELD, N.C. (WNCN) — Two weeks after Cole Thomas went missing in Benson, someone used his email address to register to take a standardized test in New Jersey, according to an investigator who asked a judge to issue a warrant.
In late November, two men told police that Thomas was driving the car they were riding in when he parked in a Benson intersection and ran from the car, taking the keys with him. Thomas was on an an interstate road trip to visit a friend for Thanksgiving, they told authorities.
Law enforcement officers and volunteers conducted dozens of searches in the Benson area in the months following his disappearance but never found Thomas.
A location history provided by Google showed Thomas’ phone was in Benson at the time he disappeared, according to a statement a State Bureau of Investigation special agent made as he requested a search warrant.
But on Dec. 8, someone using Thomas’ Gmail account registered with Educational Testing Service, the company that administers the SAT, to take a graduate-level standardized test, according to the investigator’s statement.
That Gmail account was associated with Thomas’ Facebook page before his disappearance.
UPDATE: Authorities now say Cole Thomas’ email use after his disappearance was coincidence
The person using the email account signed up to take the Graduate Record Examination, or GRE, a test widely used in graduate school admissions, on Dec. 30 at ETS’ corporate campus just outside Princeton, New Jersey, according to the document.
And the person signed up to take the math portion of the GRE when it was administered April 8 on the campus of The College of New Jersey in Ewing, N.J., just outside Trenton, according to the statement. The two testing sites are less than 10 miles apart.
In the statement, investigators revealed that they already had access to the email account, but are now seeking access to ETS’ records about the person who registered for and may have taken the test.
The warrant was issued in February, but ordered sealed for 90 days. Applying for the warrant, authorities wrote they were investigating the possibility there had been a murder.
In an earlier warrant application, police said Thomas’ father told authorities his son might have been in the area for a drug deal. The father said that information came from one of his son’s friends.