Body found in Virginia positively identified as missing Raleigh man Andy Banks

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Saturday, September 19, 2020
Body found in Virginia positively identified as missing Raleigh man Andy Banks
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Body found in Virginia positively identified as missing Raleigh man Andy Banks

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Raleigh police announced Saturday morning a body found in Virginia has been positively identified as William "Andy" Banks Jr.

The body was found Thursday with assistance from the Pittsylvania County Sheriff's Office, police said. It was sent to the coroner in Roanoke, Virginia for autopsy and positive identification.

Banks has not been seen or heard from since Saturday when he told friends he was going to the Cameron Village area to meet a man who was interested in buying his SUV.

Court records showed Justin Fernando Merritt, who was arrested earlier in the week for allegedly stealing Banks' car, was charged with murder. Merritt was arraigned on murder charges in Wake County on Friday.


RAW VIDEO: Justin Fernando Merritt made a court appearance Friday.

"Andy would have gladly handed them the keys to that car if it meant he got to live," friend Cliff Cash told ABC11 on Thursday upon hearing the news. " He would have done everything he could to talk his way out of it."

Banks' 2011 Range Rover, which he was trying to sell, was found Monday afternoon in Danville, Virginia. On Tuesday, Merritt, 34, was arrested and charged with stealing Banks' vehicle.

"Mr. Banks did everything right," said Raleigh Police Department Homicide Captain Andy Murr. "He arranged to meet in a public place during daylight hours. The suspect in this case had ulterior motives that led to the tragic death of Mr. Banks."

On Thursday, updated records showed that Merritt was also charged with murder.

Case of Raleigh man's disappearance now being investigated as a homicide, police say

Merritt was extradited to Raleigh on Wednesday morning. Arrest warrants out of Wake County released Monday said Merritt used a gun to threaten Banks and steal his SUV.

"We know this arrest will not ease the pain the family and friends of Mr. Banks are experiencing with the loss of their loved one," said Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown. "We do, however, hope that they will gain some measure of comfort with this arrest."

The Raleigh Police Department worked in conjunction with Pittsylvania County Sheriff's Office, Danville Police Department, Virginia State Police, Pittsylvania Public Safety, Danville Commonwealth Attorney Office and the Wake County District Attorney's Office during the investigation, which is still ongoing.

A search warrant released by the Danville Police Department shows the case has been considered a homicide investigation since Monday.

It states that Banks' phone was found on the side of a road in North Carolina after he was reported to have met with Merritt.

The warrant shows police searched Merritt's home and found a handgun, three phones, boxes of ammunition and two spent shell casings. The stolen SUV was also found under a tarp.

Justin Merritt was charged with stealing an SUV believed to belong to William 'Andy' Banks, Jr.

Merritt appeared before a judge Wednesday afternoon.

In court on Wednesday, Merritt heard the other charges he's facing: Larceny of a motor vehicle, which carries up to 39 months. Robbery with a dangerous weapon, which carries up to 204 months. He was also charged with possession of a firearm by a felon, which carries up to 47 months.

"As a decent human being the right thing to do would be for him to help them," Cash said. "But I don't know if he's a person who's particularly worried about doing the right thing."

People who want to send their condolences to the Banks family can do so at the following address:

The Banks Family

C/O First United Methodist Church

P O Box 218

Gastonia, NC 28053

Now that an arrest has been made, Merritt's prosecution will be led by the Wake County District Attorney's Office.