A body found Thursday in a rural Virginia field has been positively identified as Andy Banks, a North Carolina man who disappeared last week while trying to sell his 2011 Range Rover on Craigslist, the Raleigh Police Department reports.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Banks vanished on September 12 from Raleigh, after arranging to meet someone outside the now-closed K&W Cafeteria, to sell his SUV. Earlier this week, authorities arrested Justin Merritt, 34, in Danville, Virginia, and charged him with several felonies related to the vehicle.
Felony murder was added the charges after the discovery of the body, and Raleigh police announced it was definitively Banks Saturday morning.
Authorities found Banks’ cellphone off of Interstate 40 in Raleigh on Sunday, WRAL reports. Cellphone records indicate that the phone of the person Banks was supposed to meet was from the Danville, Virginia, area.
Also Monday, police found Banks’ Range Rover under a tarp behind an abandoned building in Danville. According to an arrest warrant, Merritt lives a couple of houses down from the abandoned building. Police obtained a search warrant for Merritt’s home and found numerous items of evidence.
In addition to murder, Merritt has been charged with robbery, larceny of a motor vehicle, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
According to Wake County Assistant District Attorney Patrick LaTour, Merritt lured Banks into meeting him by saying he was interested in buying Banks’ Range Rover. LaTour added that Merritt has no ties to Raleigh but physical evidence linked him to Banks’ vehicle.
Further, Merritt once lived in an area around a mile away from where authorities found Banks’ body, in Chatham, a rural community of Pittsylvania County, about 100 miles from Raleigh.
“Mr. Banks did everything right,” said Raleigh Police Homicide Captain 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 remains behind bars without bond.
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[Feature Photo: Andy Banks/Police Handout]