WASHINGTON - The FBI confirms an arrest has been made in the investigation into the disappearance and death of Ashanti Billie, the young woman from Prince George's County who was murdered and her remains found in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Federal authorities said 45-year-old Eric Brian Brown, a retired Navy veteran, kidnapped Ashanti Billie after she arrived for work at the Blimpie's on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Norfolk on Sept. 18.
“To know that a retired military person did this, it’s very harsh and very hard,” Tony Billie, Ashanti Billie’s father told FOX 5.
According to court documents, Brown was working as a day laborer and participated in the construction of the Blimpie’s over the summer. Brown, who spent 21 years in the Navy, was reportedly homeless and spent time living at random buildings on and off the base.
Blimpie's workers told authorities that Brown would visit the restaurant almost every day and had flirted with Ashanti Billie on several occasions.
Investigators said surveillance video captured Ashanti Billie's car entering the base at about 5 a.m. on Sept. 18 and the driver was wearing dark-colored clothing, consistent to what Ashanti Billie was wearing that day. Cameras then captured her vehicle leaving the base at about 5:35 a.m. with a driver wearing light-colored clothing, according to detectives.
A surveillance camera captured Ashanti Billie's car pulling up to a construction dumpster in Norfolk at about 5:45 a.m., and a few hours later, officials said construction workers found Ashanti Billie's cellphone in the dumpster.
Ashanti Billie's car was later located in Norfolk on Sept. 23. Detectives said Ashanti Billie’s pants were found inside the car and they contained dirt and debris, consistent with them being removed while outside and on the ground. The undercarriage of the car also had dirt and vegetative debris, consistent with it being driven off-road, officials said.
“It’s terrible. Beforehand we didn’t really know anything," Brandy Billie said, the mother of Ashanti Billie told FOX 5. "Now that more details are out due to the arrest, you’re able to see a wider picture and just to know she went through so much and to know there will more forthcoming through trials, more information."
Several witnesses described seeing a car similar to Ashanti Billies parked in various spots in Charlotte the week of Sept. 18. The locations witnesses described were in neighborhoods nearby where Ashanti Billie’s body was eventually found on Sept. 29 behind a church. Authorities said Brown attended vacation Bible school at the church as a child.
Video evidence indicates Brown never left the base from Sept. 14 to Sept. 18, according to investigators. The base log shows that he reentered Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek the afternoon of Sept. 19, officials stated.
The FBI said reviews of Brown's phone records show that he used his data every day from Sept. 1 to Sept. 29 except for Sept. 18. Authorities stated further review of Brown's data usage showed on Sept. 19 that he made numerous searches of Norfolk news websites to include “police looking for man,” “Norfolk police looking for man in connection with homicide,” “amber alert sept 2017,” “missing woman and baby,” and “missing woman and man.”
"It’s heartbreaking because you want to protect your baby, more than anything you want to protect your children, your loved ones and to think that you were unable to, it’s hard,” Brandy Billie, the mother of Ashanti Billie told FOX 5.
Brown was interviewed on Oct. 27 and he told investigators he was at the base the evening of Sept. 17 and blacked out, stating he had no memory of what he did for several days after that, authorities said. When officials asked Brown about Ashanti Billie, they said Brown couldn't remember if he did anything to her.
Brown's DNA was also found on pieces off Ashanti Billie's clothing, according to investigators. He has been charged with kidnapping and, if convicted, faces life in prison.