Body of missing Raleigh man found in Virginia, police say


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The body of a 39-year-old man missing since Saturday afternoon is believed to have been located in Virginia, Raleigh police said Thursday.

The body of William “Andy” Banks was discovered with help from the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office.

Justin Fernando Merritt on Sept. 15, 2020. (Raleigh/Wake CCBI)

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

Banks’ body will be sent to the coroner in Roanoke, Virginia for an autopsy, Raleigh police said.

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

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.

Banks, 39, was last seen Saturday afternoon 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.

Banks’ Range Rover was located in Danville on Monday.

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.

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

According to warrants for his arrest, Merritt used a firearm to threaten Banks’ life during the robbery.

“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.

LaTour asked Wake County Judge Ned Mangum to also consider Merritt’s three previous felony convictions when considering his bond.  

“The defendant has prior criminal convictions that I think are important and enlightening for the court when considering the defendant’s bond,” LaTour said.

Merritt has three previous felony convictions – including illegal use of a firearm and burglary.

The attorney representing Merritt in court Wednesday objected to raising his bond, saying it was already high for the charges he’s currently facing.

Mangum raised Merritt’s bond from $265,000 to $2 million.

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

He is scheduled to appear in court again Oct. 7 at 9 a.m.

While Banks’ disappearance is now a homicide investigation – no additional charges have been filed in the case.

Anyone with information on his disappearance is asked to call 911.

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