Missing Atlanta Doctorate Student Found Dead Visiting Birmingham, Partner Still Main Suspect

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BFMG) — Deundray Cottrell, 31, went missing on July 4, 2024 while celebrating the holiday with his family in east Birmingham. The doctorate student from Atlanta was found dead on the following Saturday.

Cottrell’s body was discovered at 78th Street and Fifth Avenue South in Birmingham, Ala. Due to the ongoing investigation, police have not released further details at the time. Officer Truman Fitzgerald stated that Cottrell’s death is currently unclassified, making it unclear whether foul play was involved.

Investigators are also searching for Cottrell’s partner, Julian Morris, who was last seen on Friday morning July 5, 2024.

On July 4, Birmingham Police responded to a missing persons report at a residence in the 7900 block of 4th Avenue South. Officials learned that Cottrell had been seen leaving the residence on foot in the South Eastlake community. The special victims unit was contacted, and a missing persons investigation was initiated.

Angelica Harris, Cottrell’s sister, shared that Cottrell and Morris arrived in Birmingham from Atlanta on Thursday evening to celebrate the holiday. It was Cottrell’s first visit to her new home. Cottrell worked in marketing and was pursuing a doctorate degree in Atlanta.

Around 10 p.m., Cottrell went upstairs to check on his dog due to the fireworks. “He went and checked on the dog and I never saw him again,’’ Harris said.

Morris informed the family that Cottrell had run through the backyard, leaving behind some belongings, including one shoe and his cell phone. The family noticed Morris was acting erratically, unlike his usual behavior over the past three years.

The family immediately began searching for Cottrell and eventually filed a missing person’s report with the police. They later discovered he wasn’t officially entered into the system as missing until Friday morning.

Throughout the day and night, Cottrell’s family searched for him. They obtained Ring camera footage from several homes showing Cottrell running through yards and jumping over a gate. “It looked like he was looking for refuge,’’ Harris said. “He was running for his life.”

Morris possibly went missing on Friday. Cottrell’s family saw him Friday morning, but he disappeared afterward.

On July 5, Officer Fitzgerald said BPD supervisors began searching the area, finding clothing items and surveillance footage showing Cottrell walking. Based on this evidence, they continued their search on July 6.

On Saturday, just before 3 p.m., Birmingham police found Cottrell’s body. “Our sergeants on the east precinct gathered our officers, they went out to the 7900 block of 5th Avenue South, and our dispatchers informed us just before 3 p.m. that our officers made the grim discovery of Deundray Cottrell,” BPD stated. The circumstances leading up to Cottrell’s disappearance are considered suspicious.

Fitzgerald said police are now looking for Julian Taylor Morris for questioning, as he was the last person to see Cottrell alive and may have had a romantic relationship with him. “We need to speak to him as soon as possible. He is a 31-year-old black male, [5’6”], 160 lbs. If you locate him, please call 911.”

On Sunday, July 7, Jefferson County Coroner & Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Cottrell’s death a homicide, Birmingham Police confirmed the body was found in a detached shed of a vacant house, and identified Morris as a person of interest in relation to the murder. Cause and manner of death have not yet been released as of Monday morning July 8.

**UPDATE** In an interview with Ashleigh Banfield for NEWSNATION on July 9, 2023, the brother of Deundray Cottrell, Timothy Cottrell, revealed the manner and cause of Deundray’s death was homicide by strangulation. This has not yet been confirmed by the Birmingham Police Department nor the Jefferson County Coroners Office. Sister of Deundray, Angelica Cottrell, says in the midst of text conversations between her and Julian Morris in the hours after Deundray’s disappearance, Morris revealed, “that he had put my brother in a house.” All of this new information leads to more questions and makes the current search for Julian Morris even more crucial.

Anyone with information on the murder of Deundray Cottrell and/or the whereabouts of Julian Taylor Morris is urged to call 911 or Crime Stoppers at 205-254-7777.

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Troy S.
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2 days ago

[ UPDATE ]
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BFMG) — The attorney for Julian Morris, who has been named a person of interest in the death of Deundray Cottrell, issued a statement Wednesday. The attorney emphasized that Morris is a college-educated veteran who has served his country faithfully.

The statement sent to ABC 33/40 at 4:16pm highlighted that Morris has no prior convictions and is currently grieving the loss of his loved one. The attorney also mentioned that Morris is seeking answers through the investigation but will not be making any further comments at this time.

Birmingham police named Morris a person of interest following a series of strange developments that led to the discovery of Cottrell’s body.
The investigation is ongoing, and authorities have not released further details regarding Morris’s involvement or the circumstances surrounding Cottrell’s death.

27503721-e11b-4c61-aaa3-8ee60265091c-MorrisPressRelease-Watermarked

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Troy S.
Admin
2 days ago

[ UPDATE ]
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BFMG) — The attorney for Julian Morris, who has been named a person of interest in the death of Deundray Cottrell, issued a statement Wednesday. The attorney emphasized that Morris is a college-educated veteran who has served his country faithfully.

The statement sent to ABC 33/40 at 4:16pm highlighted that Morris has no prior convictions and is currently grieving the loss of his loved one. The attorney also mentioned that Morris is seeking answers through the investigation but will not be making any further comments at this time.

Birmingham police named Morris a person of interest following a series of strange developments that led to the discovery of Cottrell’s body.
The investigation is ongoing, and authorities have not released further details regarding Morris’s involvement or the circumstances surrounding Cottrell’s death.

27503721-e11b-4c61-aaa3-8ee60265091c-MorrisPressRelease-Watermarked
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
2 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Troy S.
Admin
2 days ago

[ UPDATE ]
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BFMG) — The attorney for Julian Morris, who has been named a person of interest in the death of Deundray Cottrell, issued a statement Wednesday. The attorney emphasized that Morris is a college-educated veteran who has served his country faithfully.

The statement sent to ABC 33/40 at 4:16pm highlighted that Morris has no prior convictions and is currently grieving the loss of his loved one. The attorney also mentioned that Morris is seeking answers through the investigation but will not be making any further comments at this time.

Birmingham police named Morris a person of interest following a series of strange developments that led to the discovery of Cottrell’s body.
The investigation is ongoing, and authorities have not released further details regarding Morris’s involvement or the circumstances surrounding Cottrell’s death.

27503721-e11b-4c61-aaa3-8ee60265091c-MorrisPressRelease-Watermarked
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