Doctoral Student Vanished While Celebrating Fourth of July. Now Partner Is Person of Interest

The death of Atlanta man Deundray Cottrell, who went missing on July 4, has been ruled a homicide

<p>Birmingham Police Department (2) </p> Deundray Cottrell, Julian Morris

Birmingham Police Department (2)

Deundray Cottrell, Julian Morris

The death of an Atlanta man who went missing in Alabama on Thursday, July 4, has been ruled as a homicide, and his partner is a person of interest in the case, according to Birmingham Police Department.

Deundray Cottrell, 31, went missing during a Fourth of July celebration with his loved ones at a family member’s residence in Birmingham, Ala., according to a press release.

Police say they received a missing persons call that evening after family and friends reported that they couldn’t find Cottrell after last seeing him at the residence.

Officers say they recovered items of Cottrell’s clothing when searching the area where he was last seen and were provided surveillance footage of him walking in the area by a community member. 

The press release states that Cottrell's body was found on Saturday, July 6.

The following day, the police department shared on social media that the Jefferson County Medical Examiners Office has ruled Cottrell's manner of death homicide. Police also named Cottrell's partner Julian Taylor Morris, 31, as a person of interest in the investigation.

Police wrote in a press release that they need "assistance locating Deundray’s romantic partner who may have last seen or heard from Deundray the evening of his disappearance."

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The victim's sister, Angelica Harris, recounted the evening of Cottrell's disappearance in an interview with, saying that Cottrell and Morris arrived in Birmingham around 6 p.m. on the day of the holiday. Four hours later, around 10 p.m., Harris said Cottrell claimed he was going upstairs to check on his dog because of the fireworks and she "never saw him again."

Harris alleged to the outlet that the group was told by Morris that Cottrell "took off running through the backyard," where they later found one of his shoes and his cell phone. She claims that they tracked down security camera footage that showed Cottrell "running for his life" in the area.

Per Cottrell’s Instagram, he was working on his doctoral degree after receiving a master's degree in public administration.

Police are asking anyone with information on the case or Morris’ whereabouts to contact the Homicide Unit at 205-254-1764 or Crime Stoppers at 205-254-7777.

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