RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The second day of trial in the Andy Banks case was full of physical and digital evidence. As the day wrapped up, jurors were able to listen on a short interview between the case’s lead investigator and Justin Merritt.
Merritt is on trial for the 2020 shooting death of Banks. Prosecutors say Banks was scheduled to meet with Merritt, who he’d connected with on Craigslist, to sell Merritt his 2011 Range Rover.
At some point during a test drive of the vehicle, prosecutors believe Merritt shot Banks in the back five times before taking the vehicle and Banks’ body to his home state of Virginia.
In a video shown to jurors, Terry Jackson, the lead detective in the Banks’ case, could be seen walking into an interrogation video and greeting Merritt. He then continues to read Merritt his Miranda Rights.
Referring to potential charge of a stolen vehicle, Merritt then asks, “What is it that I can do to get out of this? To get out of everything?”
Jackson explains the owner of the Range Rover Merritt went to look at is missing.
“I didnt know that, okay,” Merritt responded.
Detective Jackson explained he drove from Raleigh to Danville because of a potentially stolen car. He then identifies himself as a homicide detective.
“So this is bigger than just a car?” Merritt says. Jackson said yes, and that’s where Merritt stops the interview.
“I don’t know anything about that and I would actually need an attorney then,” responded Merritt.
On the stand, Jackson said after this interview he went back to Merritt’s home. At that time, he says John Wilkins, Merritt’s brother-in-law, asked to speak to him. Jackson said Wilkins told him he wanted to talk about the missing person they were looking for.
According to Jackson, Wilkins said he’d seen news coverage and told Jackson he’d driven Merritt to Raleigh on Sept. 12.
On Tuesday, Wilkins testified he and Merritt drove to Raleigh in a RAV4 belonging to Merritt’s mother. He said Merritt went for a test drive with Banks, but he stayed in the RAV4 with his daughter.
When Merritt returned from the test drive, Wilkins said his brother-in-law signaled he was ready to leave.
Wilkins testified he did not see Banks or anyone else in the Range Rover but wasn’t paying much attention. Wilkins said he drove the RAV4 back to Danville while Merritt drove the Range Rover.
How police found Banks
A technical investigator with the Raleigh Police Department, Gory Mendez, went through more than a dozen presentation slides detailing cell phone data from both Banks and Merritt’s phones.
Mendez said he used cell towers to track their phones starting at 1:35 p.m.
He found their locations largely mirrored each other until about 2:30 p.m.
While Bank’s cell phone remained in along I-40 in Cary, where it was eventually found, Merritt’s cell phone started to move northwest out of Raleigh and towards Virginia, according to Mendez.
At about 5:21 p.m., Mendez said his data showed Merritt’s phone was north of Danville for about 10 minutes.
Investigators went back to Danville on Sept. 17 to search for Banks or any other evidence.
The second search location was a rural area in Chatham, Virginia. Crews split up and Mendez said they began a grid search.
“I noticed to the left of me, there was tall grass,” said Menendez. The investigator said the grass was about three feet tall but there was a flattened area.
“I started walking though the patch of grass that was flatted and as I walked five to 10 feet in that area is when I discovered a deceased body,” said Mendez.
Day three of the trial is scheduled to continue Thursday morning.