Virginia man arrested in connection with Raleigh man’s disappearance; friends pray for missing man

Wake County News

DANVILLE, Va. (WNCN) – A 34-year-old Virginia man has been arrested in connection with the disappearance of a Raleigh man over the weekend.

Justin Fernando Merritt (Danville City Jail)
Justin Fernando Merritt on Sept. 14, 2020 (Danville City Jail)

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

Merritt faces charges of robbery, larceny of motor vehicle, and possession of a firearm by convicted felon in connection with the stolen vehicle, Raleigh police said.

Merritt is being held at the Danville City Jail but officials said he has waived extradition and will be sent to Raleigh.

The search for Banks continues.

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 hasn’t been seen since but the vehicle was located in Danville on Monday.

A witness told CBS 17 he saw Danville police officers investigating behind a church.

“It must’ve been a Range Rover involved that was behind a church on Hughes Street,” he said.  

According to public records, Merritt’s home address is also on Hughes Street.

Court records show Merritt has several prior charges, including a conviction in January for assault and battery. He also served time behind bars for a 2013 conviction on burglary and drug charges.

Holly Haygood, a long time friend of Banks, said Tuesday evening she is concerned but is praying for Banks’ safe return.

“He would never be one to just leave without letting anyone know or leave behind his phone. We are really hoping he’s OK,” said Haygood.

“I’m excited that they are finding things and moving forward with the investigation. We just are really praying that we are able to find Andy,” Haygood added.

A man who lives near where Banks’ Range Rover was found is hoping for a positive outcome.

“I saw a lot of police and they were investigating. I’m hoping he’s OK and I’m praying for him, but there’s always something going on around here,” said Michael, who only provided his first name and lives near scene where Range Rover was found.

A 911 call released Monday afternoon revealed Banks planned to sell his Range Rover and then walk to the corner of St. Marys Street and Wade Avenue, where his newer car, a BMW, was parked.

The 911 call, placed Saturday just before 8 p.m., said that Banks “would never go six or seven hours without responding to me.”

“He’s a great big brother,” said Banks’ brother Mark Banks. “We’ve been best friends since the day I was born.”

Friends and family say Banks is a huge Wolfpack fan, who loves to watch football, love life, and laughter.

“He’s outgoing. He’s carefree. He’s up for any adventure,” said sister Dede Smith.

The FBI confirmed to CBS 17 on Monday that agents were assisting Raleigh police in its investigation.

Banks stands about 6 feet tall. He was last seen wearing blue Patagonia shorts, a grey shirt with a picture of a mountain on the front and flip flops.

Anyone with information that might assist detectives is asked to call Raleigh CrimeStoppers at (919) 834-HELP or visit raleighcrimestoppers.org for text and email reporting options.

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