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North Carolina man's disapperance being investigated as homicide

Friends say Andy Banks grew up in the Gastonia area. Police recovered his SUV in Virginia, but still no sign of him.

RALEIGH, N.C. — A suspect has been arrested in the theft of a car that police said belongs to a missing North Carolina man. Raleigh Police believe foul play is suspected, and are now investigating the case as a homicide, according to WRAL. 

Investigators arrested 34-year-old Justin Merritt, Danville, who's accused of stealing 39-year-old William “Andy” Banks' Range Rover.

According to court records, Merritt waived an extradition hearing and will be heading back to Raleigh to face charges of robbery, larceny of a motor vehicle and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in connection with a stolen vehicle.

Family and friends of  Banks are praying for a safe return after police say he met up with someone who was interested in buying his Range Rover on Craigslist. Banks has not been heard from since.

Investigators said Banks planned to sell a 2012 silver Range Rover Saturday afternoon. 

Banks' cellphone was found along Interstate 40 in Raleigh on Sunday, WRAL reports, and investigators determined the buyer's phone was in Danville, Virginia.

Police found that same Range Rover on Monday in Danville — more than 80 miles away from the Cameron Village shopping center in Raleigh where Banks was last seen and had arranged the online sales exchange.

Unfortunately, Banks wasn’t found with his car, and the fear of the unknown has his family and friends worried.

“I love you, this family loves you, and all of your friends love you,” Mark Banks, Andy's brother, told NBC-affiliate WRAL.

Close friends say Banks grew up in Gaston County. He graduated from Ashbrook High School in 1999.

“He never meets a stranger and he really has a way with people that they gravitate towards him and they want to be around him,” his sister Dede Banks-Smith said.

Credit: Raleigh Police

Police warn online sales exchange like in this can sometimes be risky. In 2017, CMPD investigated a homicide involving 21-year-old Zachary Finch who officers say was shot and killed while trying to buy a cellphone.

RELATED: Man found guilty in murder of 21-year-old college baseball player after meeting for online sale

“It’s always safe to bring somebody with you when you’re doing those types of purchases,” CMPD Captain Cecil Brisbon said. “Better to have someone with you than to do it on your own just for general safety reasons.”

Police are still looking for Banks, who hasn't been seen since last Saturday. Anyone with information is asked to call the Raleigh Police Department at 919-996-3335.

Prosecutors noted that Merritt is a person of interest in an ongoing missing person case, WRAL reports, adding they have no evidence of any criminal actions by Banks in the case.


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