Search Teams Collect Possible Clues in Cold Case

James Arthur Cole went missing in 1994. Volunteer search and rescue teams combed part of the Baltimore Annapolis Trail in Severna Park on Monday in a quest for new leads.

UPDATE (5:15 p.m.)—A missing person cold case may have some new leads after a search was conducted on Monday in Severna Park.

James Arthur Cole disappeared from the area in 1994 and Detective John Gajda of the Anne Arundel County Police Department is taking a fresh look at the case.

Cyclists and walkers on the Baltimore and Annapolis Trail on Monday were joined by nine volunteer Search and Rescue (SAR) teams walking along different sections of the trail, north and south from Robinson Crossing.

Some items were collected during Monday's search, according to Gajda.

"It is unknown whether they are related to human or animal remains," wrote Gajda in an email to Patch. "They will be taken to the medical examiner for further evaluation and testing."

Partnering in the effort were trained search dogs from SAR organizations from Maryland and Delaware.

"We have to give our canine partners credit, we called them last week and look at the response, the volunteers, the time and resources," Gajda said. "We are so grateful to have them and use them."

According to Gajda, Cole was 21 years old when he left the former Shangri La Restaurant at 1 a.m. on April 10, 1994. He had been out with his brother earlier in the evening, including visiting the former Gingerbread Man restaurant (now ). He's not been seen since. The Shangri La was located at what are now the , across from the Cole's family reported him missing on April 12, 1994.

"His parents and family are devastated, they've been dealing with this for many years," Gajda said.

Cole was adopted by Dorothy and Ronald Cole, formerly of Severna Park and who now live in Texas.

"We are extremely happy [about the search] and we would like some answers," said Dorothy Cole. "You raise your son for 21 years and something tragic like this happens and no answers. I hope they get some answers and find him."

The family keeps searching for answers.

"We lost our son and haven't known anything for 17 years. We've looked in every direction as to what happened. You miss the person," she said.

As for developments in the case over the years, Gajda said that the most important element was to travel out of state to get the DNA from Cole's biological mother. That was placed into the FBI coding system with no matches to date, said Gajda.

In an effort to develop fresh leads, Gajda called in the volunteer SAR groups to comb parts of the Baltimore and Annapolis Trail that may have been overlooked in the initial investigation. The police erected a command station on Monday under a tent off of Owens Way to coordinate the search.

"Our expectations aren't high, but search dog capabilities back then weren't what they are today," Gajda said.

He added that there are no new development or tips on the case at this time.

"Just a hunch," he said of exploring other parts of the trail that may have originally been overlooked.

The search mainly focused on a wooded area of the trail north of Robinson Road in Severna Park. A team also walked south on the trail towards McKinsey Road.

"He [Cole] was a camper that's why we are checking the woods, he would sleep in the woods sometimes," said Cpl. Jay Schline, a detective with the police Missing Persons Unit.

Among the volunteer search teams who volunteered on Monday are the Chesapeake Search Dogs, Mason-Dixon Rescue Dogs, Inc., Mid-Atlantic D.O.G.S. Search and Rescue, Bay Area Recovery Canines and Delmarva Search and Rescue. 

The Anne Arundel Alarmers were on hand to provide refreshments to the volunteers.

Here is a description of James Cole on the Anne Arundel County website.

If anyone has information pertaining to the case, call Gajda at 410-222-3460.

Patch will update this story if any new evidence or clues pertaining to the case are found by the SAR teams.


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