A North Carolina man vanished after going to meet someone he thought wanted to buy his car — and police believe he was the victim of a homicide.
On Saturday, William Anderson “Andy” Banks of Raleigh is believed to have gone to meet someone who’d answered an ad on Craigslist for the Range Rover Sport that Banks had bought and fixed up.
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The 39-year-old hasn’t been heard from since.
Now police fear he’s dead.
“Based on investigative findings, foul play is suspected and the incident is being investigated as a homicide,” the Raleigh Police Department announced Wednesday in a news release.
On Monday, police found the SUV in Danville, Virginia, about two hours north of Raleigh.
The next day, Danville police arrested Justin Fernando Merritt, 34, in connection with Banks’ disappearance.
Justin Fernando Merritt
Danville City Jail
He was taken into custody in Danville and is charged with robbery, larceny of motor vehicle, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in connection with the stolen vehicle, Raleigh police said in the release.
Homicide charges have not been filed in the case “at this time,” the release says.
Merritt was extradited from Virginia on Wednesday, ABC11 reports.
He is being held on a $2 million bond.
He has not yet entered a plea. It is unclear whether he has hired an attorney who can speak on his behalf.
Merritt allegedly used a gun to threaten Banks and steal the Range Rover, according to arrest warrants from Wake County, ABC11 reports.
During the alleged theft, “the life of William Anderson Banks Jr. was threatened and endangered,” the warrant states.
When police searched Merritt’s home, they found a handgun, boxes of ammunition and two spent shell casings, the warrant says.
One of Banks’ friends called 911 on Saturday to report him missing after not hearing from Banks for six or seven hours, according to a recording of the call provided by Raleigh police.
The caller said Banks had planned to meet someone in the parking lot of K&W Cafeteria on Woodburn Road at 2 p.m.
His phone was later found on the side of a road in North Carolina.
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As authorities search for Banks, his family and friends are worried sick about the man they describe as good-hearted and fun to be around.
“Andy was a super fine, loving, affectionate human being,” his father, Bill Banks, told The News & Observer on Tuesday. “He had more friends than I ever dreamed of having, and they thought the world of him. They’re all completely devastated. He was a wonderful person. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body. As far as I know, he’d never even been in an altercation.”
Banks was the kind of person who delivered flowers and groceries to the mother of one of his friends during the COVID-19 quarantine because she was scared to leave her house, one friend told ABC11.
“This is a guy who is a son, a brother, and an uncle and just the nicest guy,” Banks’ friend, Cliff Cash told Channel 9. “I don’t think there’s peace of mind until we have some answers.”
“My wife and I have a strong faith,” his father told The News & Observer. “Our faith will get us through this. We’re strong, but we’re struggling.”
Banks is 6 feet tall and was wearing blue Patagonia shorts, a gray shirt with a picture of a mountain on it and flip flops, say police in the release.
Anyone with information is asked to call 911.