Wanting to look into the matter further, Grady County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Riggins stopped the motorist and began asking questions. Sheriff’s Investigator Steve Clark decided to back up Riggins on the stop.
“His driver’s license was the first clue,” Investigator Clark says. The name on the license was Darrell Lee Leroy, but Clark says the license picture looked like it might not be the same as the person driving the wrecked car.
The teenaged driver claimed he was on his way from Texas to Atlanta for vacation.
Questioned about the damaged car, the young man said a truck rear ended him in a little town shortly after he crossed into Georgia. Unable to provide the name of the town, the teen said it began with the letter “G.” “The only town I can think of that would fit that description is Grady,” Clark says. The driver contended officers who worked the wreck told him he could continue to drive the seriously damaged 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse. Clark says because of safety violations no officer would allow that vehicle to continue to operate since it didn’t have working tail lights, light lenses or even a bumper.
On further inspection, Clark figured the damage could not have been caused by another vehicle. When he questioned the driver again, the teen finally admitted he had backed into a tree.
“His story just wasn’t adding up,” says Clark.
Finally, the officers discovered the Mitsubishi was registered to 19-year-old Spencer Vogt, a Katy, Texas, teenager who had been reported missing just two days prior. Clark and Riggins searched the car then, and found a firearm and traces of what may be blood.
“The guy just kept continuing to lie, lie, and lie to us, and the truth kept contradicting his story,” Clark explains. That is when Clark decided to detain the driver so he could contact Texas authorities. In Georgia, officers have the right to detain a person up to 48 hours if they have reason to believe a crime may have been committed.
“He had been lying, and had possession of a missing person’s car who had not been seen or heard from, and when I asked him about the missing person, he claimed he didn’t know him,” Clark says.
A more thorough search of the Mitsubishi that morning revealed two more driver’s licenses in the back seat.
By Monday at 8:30 a.m., Clark was in touch with Texas authorities, and he sent them a photograph of the person he had detained along with copies of the three driver’s licenses. When Texas authorities showed those to the missing teen’s mother, she said she didn’t recognize any of them.
By Monday afternoon, Clark charged the driver under the name of Leroy with bringing stolen goods into the state, and Grady County Magistrate Judge Larry Bearden denied bond.
However, by Tuesday, Clark had sent copies of “Leroy’s” fingerprints to Houston, and after confirming their findings, a positive identification of the driver was found, Lee Carl Banks III, 19, who has a prior criminal history.
Banks now became the focus of the Texas authorities’ investigation into Spencer Vogt’s disappearance. Clark says Texas officials gained consent from Banks’ mother and searched her Texas apartment where she lived with her son.
By Wednesday, an agent with the Texas Rangers and a homicide detective with Fort Bend County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office had arrived in Cairo to interview Banks. Clark says Banks told the Texas officers he had met Vogt in an Internet chat room about a week before his disappearance, and the two had been out together the evening of Friday, Mar. 27. That night the couple went to Banks’ apartment, where Banks claims he accidentally shot Vogt in the head. Banks told the officers he then dumped the body in a ditch in southeast Houston.
By Wednesday night, officers had found a body with multiple gunshot wounds to the head dumped and wrapped in a tarp in the area Banks described. Because the body had been there five days, authorities had to wait on a medical examiner’s report to positively identify it as Vogt. Once they had that positive information, Texas authorities charged Banks, who was still being held in Grady County, with capital murder.
On Monday of this week, Banks appeared before Grady County Magistrate Bearden where he waived extradition, volunteering to return to Texas. Authorities then returned to Cairo and transported Banks back to Houston Tuesday.
Investigator Clark says Grady County will likely drop its charge against Banks and allow the Houston authorities to handle the case.