The family of 31-year-old Deundray Cottrell seeks answers about his mysterious disappearance and death. He was found dead in a shed two days after being reported missing from a July Fourth gathering in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Jefferson County Medical Examiner’s Office performed an autopsy and ruled Cottrell’s death a homicide, and local police have named his romantic partner, Julian Taylor Morris, as a person of interest, according to a news release from the Birmingham Police Department.

Cottrell was originally from Birmingham but lived in Atlanta for about 10 years, 11 Alive reported. According to his Instagram, he was working on his PhD, having previously earned a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in marketing. In addition to his academic achievements, he was also an influencer, dancer, model and photographer.

His sister, Angelica Cottrell, said he and Morris arrived at her new home in Birmingham around 6 p.m. to celebrate the holiday with family. She noted that this visit was different because her brother is usually so busy that he hardly has time to see his loved ones.

“It’s interesting because Deundray normally has such a busy schedule that it’s not normal for us to see him for the Fourth of July,” Angelica told 11 Alive.

Angelica noticed several small things that seemed off about her brother’s visit compared to previous ones. She said Cottrell was the CEO of a three-member dance group called SkiiBoyz Entertainment, which included himself, Morris and longtime member DeEric.

“DeEric had been around my brother for over 14 years,” Angelica said, noting that Morris had only been around since 2020, per the outlet.

She said everything initially seemed fine at the family gathering. Cottrell went inside around 9 p.m. and walked upstairs to check on his dog because of the fireworks. That was the last time Angelica and the rest of her family saw him alive, USA Today reported.

“He went and checked on the dog and I never saw him again,’’ Angelica told

They later reported him missing to local police, prompting several East Precinct officers to arrive at the home to investigate his sudden disappearance, as stated in the news release. The officers searched for the 31-year-old and recovered some of his clothing in the nearby area.

The family told that Morris had last seen Cottrell on foot after he had taken off in the backyard following a conversation they had in the house. They later found his sunglasses, cellphone and one of his shoes while searching for him. Police also reviewed surveillance footage from neighbors that captured Cottrell running through yards and jumping fences, as if someone was chasing him.

The family continued searching for Cottrell on Friday and Saturday before police discovered his body around 3 p.m. that day in a shed behind an abandoned home just a block from where he was last seen.

“It’s tough. A lot of people take it tougher, because we consistently went past that shed, we consistently went past that shed numerous times, retracing his steps, from what we seen and evidence we had found by ourselves, but the thought was never he was in that shed,” his brother, Timothy Cottrell, told ABC 33/40. “It’s a blessing and a curse because how would we react if we found him ourselves, that whole look and idea, but just knowing he was in the shed the entire time. We passed, kept going by it, we didn’t want to break any laws.”

Police are now searching for Morris and urged him to come forward with any information he may have about Cottrell’s disappearance and death.

“We need to speak to him because he may hold crucial information in this investigation,” Birmingham Police Department’s public information officer Truman Fitzgerald said, per ABC 33/40.

“That’s why it’s important he comes forward,” Fitzgerald said. “Deundrey was well loved, I can safely say the entire state of Alabama, possible areas of Georgia are looking for Julian Morris. It’s important for him to come forward, turn himself in, we are confident that the community when they see him, they will report him to the authorities,” he added.