A retired Navy veteran charged with kidnapping Virginia native Ashanti Billie in Virginia is now facing a murder charge connected to the 19-year-old’s death in Charlotte.
On Wednesday, police released a statement saying that information gathered from a collaborative investigation led detectives to name 45-year-old Eric Brian Brown as the suspect in Billie’s disappearance and death. He was arrested in Virginia and charged with kidnapping.
Later in the day, detectives in Charlotte signed a warrant for murder against Brown.
Billie went missing on Sept. 18, from her work at a Blimpie restaurant at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia. Her body was discovered on Sept. 29 behind East Stonewall AME Zion Church on Griers Grove Road in north Charlotte.
According to court documents released Wednesday, Brown attended the church’s vacation Bible school as a child. The church is also 300 yards from his childhood home.
Officials say Brown, who spent 21 years in the Navy, worked as a day laborer and helped in the construction of the Blimpie restaurant where Billie worked this past summer.
Agents say they believe Brown is homeless and “lives at random facilities and buildings on and off the naval bases.” They say Billie’s co-workers reported that Brown would visit the restaurant “almost every day.” The co-workers also said that Brown was seen “attempting to flirt with Billie on several occasions, and one witness recalled hearing a conversation where Brown made a crude sexual comment directly to Billie.”
On the day of her disappearance, the documents state, Billie was seen driving her car on surveillance video as she arrived for work at 5 a.m. A person in different clothing was seen on surveillance video driving the car away from the base at 5:33 a.m. At 5:44 a.m., the car was seen on surveillance video stopped at a construction dumpster in Norfolk.
“A few hours later, construction workers found Billie’s cell phone in the dumpster,” the document states.
Billie’s car, with some of her clothing inside, was found in Norfolk on Sept. 23. During the investigation, the documents state, several people reported seeing a car matching the description during the week of Sept. 18 in Charlotte neighborhoods near the church where Billie’s body was found.
Investigators say Brown’s wireless internet usage data indicates he used his mobile device “nearly every day from September 1 to September 29. The only day in that time period that there was no usage data is September 18, which is the day Billie went missing.”
The documents also state that Brown’s phone’s web history showed that when he got back online on Sept. 19 and the following days, he began searching Norfolk and Charlotte news sites looking for information on Billie’s disappearance, including searching for “police looking for man,” “Norfolk police looking for man in connection with homicide.”
During an interview with law enforcement on Oct. 27, the documents state Brown told agents was on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek on Sept. 17, and that “at one point he blacked out and had no recollection of what he did for several days after that.”
Agents said “when discussing the abduction and murder of Billie, Brown confirmed that he could not remember if he did anything to Billie.”
Billie’s body and clothes were processed and, the documents state, DNA found matched Brown’s. Officials say “the probability of this DNA profile belonging to any other person is 1 in 720 billion.”
Brown was arrested on the kidnapping charge in Virginia, and later charged with murder in Charlotte.
According to WTKR, Billie family spokesperson Kimberly Wimbish released a statement Wednesday:
The entire Billie family would like to extend their deepest thanks and gratitude to the FBI, Virginia Beach and Norfolk Police Departments, and NCIS for their attention and investigations regarding their daughter, Ashanti Billie. Additionally they would like to extend their heartfelt thanks to all that helped and came forward with tips. At the current time the family needs time to process the information but will be making a public statement soon.
Investigators have not said how or where they believe Billie was killed.
Charlotte resident Warren Stukes said he knew Eric Brown when Brown was just a teenager.
“He was a good kid, very quiet, very easy going,” said Stukes.
Stukes said he knew Brown’s whole family. He explained that the recent news of Brown’s arrest definitely caught him by surprise.
“He was a nice kid but over the years people change,” said Stukes.
He said he does feel sorry for Brown’s family because of what they are likely going through. He said Brown needs to ask for forgiveness.
“Make sure you ask God for forgiveness, ask the young lady’s family for forgiveness, and hope and pray that they will spare your life,” said Stukes.
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