RALEIGH — A 23-year-old Apex man who went missing in downtown Raleigh early Saturday was found dead Tuesday afternoon off westbound I-40 near the Hammond Road interchange.
Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue confirmed the deceased was Weston Michael Vandemerwe.
Officers are investigating the death as a hit-and-run.
Family members and friends had been worried about Vandemerwe since about 1:30 a.m. Saturday, when he was last seen outside the Oxford Bar on Fayetteville Street.
His mother, Becky Daly, filed a missing persons report over the weekend, and on Monday, about a dozen friends and family members gathered downtown to hang fliers and ask people if they had seen him. They continued their search Tuesday until the body was found by a crew working in the vicinity, which called 911.
Some of Vandemerwe’s friends showed up Tuesday afternoon at the scene where officers were investigating the body near Hammond Road, about two miles from the Oxford Bar.
Vandemerwe was last seen by his girlfriend, Kaitlyn Holmes, in downtown Raleigh Friday night. She said they argued, describing the disagreement as “typical relationship fighting.” It didn’t seem like “that big of a fight,” she said.
She got in a cab to go home, but he walked away, she said.
After circulating a description and a photo, friends and family members said they talked with a few people who reported seeing him later that night. Although one group reported that they had seen Vandemerwe “inebriated” and lying on the ground off Lenoir Street, he refused assistance, and no one called for help.
Ryan Soysal, who left the bar about a half-hour before Holmes, said Vandemerwe had been drinking but “wasn’t incapacitated by any means.” Other friends with him on Friday night said Vandemerwe had been acting normal and described him as level-headed.
Nick Francis, an adviser to Vandemerwe’s fraternity, said friends gathered Tuesday evening to share stories about Vandemerwe, who was going to be in Francis’ daughter’s wedding. “He was well-liked, and he was a core part of their group,” Francis said. “It’s a shame.”
Francis said he received a text message Tuesday morning telling him the group looking for Vandemerwe numbered 80 people.
“That was huge that they were together – that they prayed together,” he said.
Vandemerwe graduated from East Carolina University last year and worked for an insurance company.
Anyone with information that might assist investigation of the hit-and-run investigation should call Raleigh Crime Stoppers at 919-834-4357 or visit www.raleighcrimestoppers.org for text and email reporting options.