RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- During the second day of the murder trial into the death of Andy Banks, a Raleigh man who disappeared in September 2020, crime scene investigators and police detailed evidence they collected.
Suzanna Stirewalt with CCBI shared her analysis of photographs of Banks' Range Rover, which he was attempting to sell to the defendant Justin Merritt, when the two men met on Saturday, September 12th, 2020 in The Village parking lot.
"The first one, right here in that wood paneling area, as well as that second one right here in this interior a frame," said Stirewalt, alluding to two bullet holes on the interior of the passenger's side.
She later discussed areas of stains and discoloration inside the vehicle.
"This is in reference to the use of Blue Star (a blood reaction agent). So you can see towards the bottom here, where you have that luminescence it's a little bit paler here, the stains are a little bit smaller but you can see that positive reaction," said Stirewalt.
Tuesday, during the first day of the trial, John Wilkins III, Merritt's brother-in-law, testified he accompanied Merritt down to Raleigh for the meeting with Banks. He said he saw Merritt get in the driver's seat of the Range Rover, with Banks in the passenger's seat, assuming he was taking the vehicle for a test drive. Nearly a half hour later, Merritt returned, apparently alone, and the two drove separately back to Virginia.
Later that day, Banks' friends expressed concern after not hearing from him, and alerted his brother, who filed a missing persons report.
Both Stirewalt and Raleigh Police Detective Gory Mendez, who discovered Banks' body in Virginia, provided similar descriptions of the area in which he was found.
"This is an open field, tall grass. There was a dirt road that followed down here and there was a small pathway you can kind of see where the descendant was recovered," said Stirewalt, who said it was "more of a rural area" in a follow-up question.
"From this piece of property, where this gate led to which appeared to be closed, I don't think there was a home visible. It was obvious that it was someone's private property because of the gate and the gravel path. But I couldn't see any homes in that immediate area," said Mendez.
Mendez described the state of Banks' body, which was found on Thursday, September 17th, 2020 five days after he was reported missing.
"I remember the body. It appeared to be maybe laying down flat on its back. Initially, the skin was so discolored, or I would say white or gray, I thought it was the belly of a deer," Mendez explained.
Stirewalt highlighted condition of Banks' jacket, which was found near his body.
"That item did have several defects, and defects are damage caused by projectiles or that part of the bullet, as are several defects on that jacket. Red in color. There were also red in color stains in that jacket as well," said Stirewalt, alluding to bullet holes and blood.
In its opening statement, the defense acknowledged evidence would show Merritt did shoot Banks, but emphasized the state was trying to prove Merritt premeditated the murder.