Police: Friend in focus of murder investigation in Alabama
Police: Friend in focus of murder investigation in Alabama

(NewsNation) – Alabama police are searching for the boyfriend of a murdered graduate student and professional dancer who disappeared on July 4 and was found dead Saturday.

The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office in Alabama has ruled the death of 31-year-old Deundray Cottrell a homicide. Birmingham police are now asking the public for help in locating Cottrell’s boyfriend, Julian Morris, whom investigators have classified as a suspect.

Cottrell was visiting Alabama from Atlanta to celebrate the Fourth of July at the time of his death, his family told NewsNation on Tuesday. He went into the house during the fireworks to check on the family dog, and an hour later, Morris told the man’s family that the 31-year-old had gone out the window and taken off, Cottrell’s sister, Angelica Cottrell, told NewsNation.

“It was really Morris’ calmness, his lack of urgency,” said Angelica Cottrell. “He was so relaxed and didn’t show any fear or anything else that his family members showed at the time. He was just calm, quiet and nothing he said made any sense.”

Morris was the last person to see or hear from Cottrell, a police spokesman said. As of Wednesday afternoon, police had not filed any charges in connection with Cottrell’s death.

When officers searched the area the next day, they found clothing they believed to be Cottrell’s, and a neighbor provided security camera footage showing Cottrell walking in the area.

According to local reports, officers discovered his body shortly before 3 p.m. in a detached shed of a vacant house.

Cottrell’s brother said the Atlanta dancer died of strangulation. NewsNation could not independently confirm that information. The Jefferson County coroner’s office had not released a cause of death as of Wednesday, and police declined comment, citing an ongoing investigation.

Police asked anyone with information on Morris’ whereabouts to call 911 or contact Crime Stoppers at 205-254-7777. Crime Stoppers tips are anonymous and can result in a cash reward of up to $5,000, according to Birmingham police.

By Aurora