Body found in Virginia field positively ID’d as missing Raleigh man, police say

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The body found Thursday in a field in Virginia has been positively identified as a Raleigh man who went missing after trying to sell a car to a buyer from Craigslist, Raleigh police announced Saturday morning.

William “Andy” Banks, 39, was last seen the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 12, after his family said he was meeting someone in the K&W Cafeteria parking lot at Cameron Village about selling his 2011 Silver Range Rover Sport.

Andy Banks (Family photo)

Banks’ Range Rover was located in Danville on Monday.

Justin Fernando Merritt, of Danville, Virginia was arrested Monday in relation to the disappearance of Banks.

Merritt was charged with robbery, larceny of motor vehicle, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in connection with the stolen vehicle.

Merritt wasn’t served with those warrants until he was brought to Raleigh. The 34-year-old waived extradition early Tuesday.

Raleigh police said Wednesday the disappearance of Banks was being investigated as a homicide.

Raleigh police said Thursday that a body, likely that of Banks, was discovered in Virginia with help from the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office.

Thursday afternoon, Merritt was charged with murder, arrest records show.

An arrest warrant obtained Friday morning says that the crime occurred in Wake County on Sept. 12, the last day Banks was heard from.

Earlier on Thursday, the Chatham Star Tribune reports the body was found on a farm on Beechnut Road in rural Chatham.

Public records show Merritt once lived on Dry Fork Road – which is around a mile from Beechnut Road. Beechnut Road is around 12 miles northwest of Danville.

Justin Merritt in court on Sept. 18, 2020.

In court Wednesday, Wake County Judge Ned Mangum raised Merritt’s bond from $265,000 to $2 million. Wake County Detention Center records show Merritt is now being held without bond on the murder charge.

Wake County Assistant District Attorney Patrick LaTour said in court that Merritt came from Virginia “under the guise” of buying Banks’ SUV.

“All of these charges relate to a situation here in Raleigh which the victim in this case is still unaccounted for. Law enforcement suspect further of these charges, foul play involved. I would ask you substantially the defendant’s bond increase bond,” said LaTour.

LaTour said Merritt has no ties to the Raleigh area, and physical evidence linked Merritt to the Range Rover.

“They spoke to several witnesses that corroborated at least that, and based on physical evidence that they have found within the car that they believe there to have been a dangerous weapon used in the taking of that automobile,” LaTour said.

There is zero evidence of criminal conduct by Banks, LaTour said.

Raleigh police said Banks made all the proper decisions when selling his vehicle to Merritt.

“Mr. Banks did everything right,” said homicide Capt. 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.”

Merritt appeared in a Wake County courtroom Friday afternoon where he was told if convicted he could face the death penalty by lethal injection or life in prison without parole.

Merritt will be appointed a capital offender attorney.

He remains at the Wake County Detention Center without bond.

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