Police seek missing man despite reported sighting


County police are still searching for a Severna Park man

missing since April 10, even though a witness claims to have spoken with him May 5 at a Taco Bell restaurant on Ritchie Highway near Jumpers Hole Road, police said.

James Arthur Cole, 21, who lived with his parents in the 500 block of Hodges Lane, reportedly talked to a man who knew him casually, said Lt. Michael McNelly, commander of the crimes against persons section of the county Police Department.

The conversation reportedly took place at about 7:30 p.m. May 5 and was described as being "very casual."

"It was basically a 'Hi, how are you doing?' type of conversation," said Lieutenant McNelly.

The witness contacted police after seeing Mr. Cole's picture on a missing persons poster. Mr. Cole's father, Ronald Cole, said he and his wife are skeptical about the reported sighting.

"We don't believe that was Jimmy," Mr. Cole said.

The witness claims to have known James Cole from Chesapeake High School, but Ronald Cole said his son never attended or visited the school. Lieutenant McNelly wouldn't confirm or deny the witness' claims or release his identity.

According to the witness, Mr. Cole apparently had enough money to buy coffee.

Friends and family members say that at the time of his disappearance, they don't think Mr. Cole had any money, since he had not picked up his last paycheck. Ronald Cole said the paycheck is still sitting in the office of his son's employer.

The witness, who passed a polygraph test, said Mr. Cole was wearing red jogging shorts, a blue T-shirt and a baseball cap. A police poster issued April 29 said Mr. Cole was wearing a burgundy and green baseball-style shirt, blue jeans, a green Loyola baseball hat and a new pair of low-cut hiking boots when he was last seen on April 10.

Lieutenant McNelly stressed that the search for Mr. Cole is not over.

"We still consider him a missing person," the lieutenant said. "The investigation is still open."

Ronald Cole said that if his son was in the area, he would have contacted his brother or his girlfriend. Because he hasn't, Mr. Cole is convinced he is missing.

"We're still at zero. We have not a clue," the father said.

Mr. Cole went drinking April 10 at the Shangri-La, in the Park Plaza Shopping Center in the 500 block of Ritchie Highway. A waitress saw him leave about 1:30 a.m. He has not been seen since except for the reported sighting on May 5.

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