Missing NJ teen took $1,000 but left phone at home, parents say
MOUNTAIN LAKES — The 15-year-old runaway who has now been missing for a week left behind his cell phone but took $1,000 in cash, according to his parents.
Thomas Kolding left home last Tuesday after an argument with his parents over his grades. His father told the Daily Record that Thomas is an honors student.
"I was trying to motivate him and get him to live up to his potential," Kolding told the Record. "I think he was feeling pressure at school, and I want to believe that some strange part of him needed to get away for a while."
Thomas is believed to have taken his bike to the Denville train station, where he took a train to Newark and then Manhattan, where his trail went cold. Although police said he always had an interest in traveling to California, his family does not know where he's headed.
His father told the Record that he made the money he took with him doing different jobs around the neighborhood including mowing lawns and shoveling snow.
Mountain Lakes High School Acting Principal Frank Sanchez told New Jersey 101.5 that "we are a deeply concerned community of teachers and students, anxious but hopeful that Thomas will return to us safe soon."
Sanchez said the school is encouraging students to share whatever information they might have about Kolding's whereabouts, and are in daily contact with the family.
While schools will be closed on Thursday and Friday, Sanchez said the district will leave the school open for "students who are struggling with feelings related to Thomas and who may need to talk with professional counselors and other certified adults."
When school reopens next week, they will be making a "personal scrapbook" in the counseling office, including messages of support for the Koldings. The messages will be delivered to the family at the end of the week.
His mother, Aleksandra, posted on Facebook about his disappearance on Friday, and has updated it twice since. On Sunday, she said he was carrying a large black backpack that should help people identify him. In an update on Monday she said that "for the first time, it feels like we're just about to make real progress as we continue our search for Thomas."
"I believe that my husband's trip today into Manhattan may have gotten us somewhere," she said. "He gained direct access to the conductors and brakemen on both of Thomas's trains (one whom remembered him, so we can now feel sure he made it into NYC.)"
Aleksandra said that during a meeting with the NYPD, they saw what they believe is video evidence of Thomas walking through Penn Station, which they had not seen before.
"Our detectives will be hard at work following up on all this immediately," she said. "We're a long ways from bringing him home but let's all keep up the hope."
Aleksandra's post had been shared more than 42,000 times as of Monday. By Tuesday the number of shares had grown to more than 100,000.
Kolding is 5 feet 3 inches and weighs 120 pounds. He was last seen wearing a camouflage jacket and a gray skull cap. Police described the black bag he was wearing as looking like "he has his whole life in there."
Anyone with information is asked to call the Mountain Lakes Police Department at 973-334-1413.