BY Stephen Nartey, 3:40pm July 09, 2024,

Atlanta PhD student disappeared on Fourth of July, his boyfriend is now person of interest

Deundray Cottrell (left) and Julian Morris. PHOTO: BIRMINGHAM POLICE DEPARTMENT

The festive Fourth of July for Deundray Cottrell’s family turned into a heartbreaking ordeal when he vanished without a trace from their gathering. Just two days later, their worst fears were realized as Cottrell’s lifeless body was discovered.

Now, all eyes turn to Cottrell’s boyfriend, the last person to have seen him alive, according to  AL.com.
The 31-year-old doctoral student was last seen at a residence in Birmingham, Alabama, where he had traveled with his boyfriend, Julian Taylor Morris, also 31, from Atlanta to visit family for the Fourth of July.

Concerned family members alerted city police after Cottrell went missing from the home, prompting authorities to launch a search effort to locate him. The subsequent day, officers, aided by the Special Victims Unit, conducted an extensive search of the vicinity where Cottrell was last spotted, recovering some of his clothing items. A critical breakthrough came when a vigilant community member provided surveillance footage capturing Cottrell walking in the area.

After two days of intensive search efforts, Cottrell was discovered deceased just blocks away from where he was last seen. The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office ruled his death a homicide, prompting law enforcement to focus their investigation on Morris, believed to be the last person to have seen Cottrell alive. Authorities are now in pursuit of Morris as they seek to unravel the circumstances leading to Cottrell’s untimely demise.

Angelica Cottrell told AL.com that her brother attended the gathering with Morris, who informed the family he last saw Cottrell running through the backyard, abandoning his shoes and cellphone. In an interview with WSBTV, Angelica Cottrell recounted Morris alerting her to her brother’s disappearance, alleging he had jumped off her patio balcony.

“He told us that when he jumped, he bounced…got up and jumped the fence and took off running,” she said. She described Morris’s initial reaction and behavior as bizarre following her brother’s disappearance.

“While we looked – Julian didn’t,” she said. “At one point when everybody was searching, Julian had fixed a plate and was sitting there eating, and he looked at me and said omg the food is so good.”

Suspecting that Morris might be withholding information, Angelica Cottrell asked him to leave and find somewhere else to stay.

“Julian knows everything and he made a point to keep reminding me throughout his rants that he was a marine,” she said.

Morris, described as a Black male, 5’6” tall and weighing 160 pounds, is currently sought by authorities.
CrimeStoppers has announced a $5,000 reward for any tips leading to his whereabouts.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: July 9, 2024

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