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Virginia man guilty of killing Gaston County native in 2020 car theft in Raleigh, will spend life behind bars

A jury found Justin Merritt guilty of the murder of Andy Banks Jr. on Friday

RALEIGH, N.C. — The man accused of killing a Gaston County native during an attempted car sale in 2020 has now been found guilty by a jury in Raleigh.

On Friday, NBC affiliate WRAL-TV reported the Wake County jury quickly and unanimously found Justin Merritt guilty of the murder of 39-year-old Andy Banks Jr. The decision came after a week's worth of testimony.

Banks reportedly met with Merritt in Raleigh while trying to sell his car on Craigslist. But Banks went missing for several days, and his 2011 Range Rover Sport was eventually spotted in Danville, Virginia, where Merritt lived.

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Merritt was initially charged with stealing Banks' car, but then charged with murder when Banks' body was found in Virginia.

WRAL noted Merritt's attorneys didn't try to argue he wasn't responsible for Banks' murder. Rather, they asked jurors to consider a second-degree conviction. However, Wake County prosecutors argued for a first-degree conviction.

The jury returned a first-degree murder conviction according to WRAL. Merritt will now spend the remainder of his life in prison without the chance for parole.

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WRAL reports Banks' brother and mother shared emotional impact statements that made some jurors weep. Merritt also addressed Banks' mother and apologized, before apologizing to his own family.

Banks grew up in Gaston County, and close friends told WCNC Charlotte he graduated from Ashbrook High School in 1999.

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