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

Anthony Wilson Image
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Case of Raleigh man's disappearance now being investigated as a homicide, police say
Case of Raleigh man's disappearance now being investigated as a homicide, police say

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The disappearance of a Raleigh man missing from the Cameron Village area is now being investigated as a homicide, the police department announced on Wednesday.

No charges have been filed in the case, but officers said they suspect foul play is involved in Andy Banks' disappearance.

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.

"Regardless of what state Andy is in, everybody just wants there to be an end to this part of it, to know where he is," friend Cliff Cash said Wednesday. "That really happened pretty fast, so I think that's pretty solid police work and I know the family feels that way."

Banks' family did not comment on the latest developments.

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

Justin Fernando Merritt was charged with robbery, larceny of motor vehicle and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

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

Banks has still not been located.

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.

By Wednesday morning, Merritt had been moved to Wake County Detention Center and appeared before a judge later in the afternoon. He is being held on a $2 million secured bond.

In court Wednesday, Merritt heard the 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."

Merritt has only been charged in connection to stealing Banks' SUV. He has not even been named as a suspect in the homicide.

Virginia man charged with stealing missing Raleigh man's SUV, whereabouts of 39-year-old still unknown