RALEIGH, N.C. (WBTV) - A man has been charged with murder in the case of a North Carolina man who went missing for days after a planned car sale.
Raleigh Police say Justin Fernando Merritt has been charged with murder in connection to the homicide of 39-year-old William “Andy” Banks.
The charge comes hours after officials found the body believed to be Banks. With the assistance of the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office, officials recovered the body believed to be that of Banks. Officials say the body will be sent to the coroner in Roanoke, VA, for autopsy and positive identification.
On Wednesday, authorities revealed foul play is suspected and that the incident is being investigated as a homicide based on investigative findings.
Earlier this week, Merritt was arrested in the theft of a car police say belonged to Banks. Merritt was initially charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon, larceny of a motor vehicle and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
An arrest warrant from Raleigh Police Department states there was probable cause to believe Merritt unlawfully, willfully and feloniously stole Banks’s vehicle. The warrant claims Merritt stole the vehicle by assault while having a gun and threatening to use it, putting Banks’s life in danger.
Arrest warrants also state Merritt has previously been convicted of felony burglary in 2013 in Virginia, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Banks grew up in Gastonia and his parents still live there. His family was praying Andy would come home safely.
“We ask the people pray to Andy when they’re praying that God and the Holy Spirit be with him and keep him until we find him," Andy’s mom said earlier this week.
Although Banks has lived in the Raleigh area for many years, his fellow classmates in Gastonia still remember him as a friend to all.
“He was a good friend to a lot of people never had an enemy. This has been a really tragic situation for the community. His family and himself are well known in the community," said former classmate Melissa McLean. "Our hearts go out to him, we’re praying every day and hoping for the best outcome.”