NORFOLK, Va. -- A retired Navy veteran has been charged with murder and kidnapping in the death of 19-year-old Ashanti Billie, according to the United States Attorney's Office. Billie was found dead more than a week after her September 18 disappearance.
"Eric Brian Brown, 45, allegedly abducted Billie on September 18 as Billie arrived for work at a Blimpie’s restaurant on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek [in Norfolk]," a United States Attorney's Office spokesperson said. "Brown, who spent 21 years in the Navy, worked as a day laborer and participated in the construction of the Blimpie’s this past summer."
Agents said Brown was homeless and lived "at random facilities and buildings on and off the naval bases."
Billie’s coworkers told investigators Brown would visit the Blimpie’s "almost every day" and would attempt to flirt with Billie.
Her car was last seen leaving JEB Little Creek in Norfolk.
Her body was found 11 days later in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her body was found about 300 yards away from Brown’s childhood home.
"Billie’s car was found in Norfolk on September 23. Inside of the car, agents recovered Billie’s pants, which contained dirt and debris, consistent with being removed while outside and on the ground. The undercarriage of the car also contained dirt and vegetative debris, consistent with being driven off-road. During interviews conducted on or about September 30, several witnesses described seeing a car like Billie’s during the week of September 18 parked at various locations in Charlotte neighborhoods near to where Billie’s body was found," the United States Attorney's Office spokesperson said. "The property on which the body was found is owned by and located next to the church where Brown attended vacation Bible school as a child."
Wireless and internet evidence
Investigators cited wireless and internet evidence that linking Brown to the crime:
A detailed review of Brown’s wireless internet usage data indicates that Brown used his mobile devices 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.
Further, the review of Brown’s wireless internet usage data indicates that he was on base from September 14 until late in the evening of September 17, which is when all usage data ceased until starting again on September 19. A review of security camera video from all of the gates on the base revealed no evidence of Brown ever leaving the base from September 14 through September 18. A records check of base entry logs indicate that Brown reentered Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek on the afternoon of September 19.
A review of Brown’s phone’s web history indicates that when Brown first initiated web activity on September 19, he made numerous searches of Norfolk news 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.”
Additionally, Brown searched for information on Charlotte news websites on September 21, which was eight days before the victim’s body was recovered by law enforcement.
And on September 22, Brown entered searches for “JEB Little Creek Blimpies” and a search regarding parents of a missing college student.
When questioned about the crime, Brown told agents while he was on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek on September 17, he blacked out and had no recollection of what he did for "several days after that."
"When discussing the abduction and murder of Billie, Brown confirmed that he could not remember if he did anything to Billie," the spokesperson said.
Investigators also laid out the DNA evidence they collected that connected Brown to Billie.
Billie’s body and clothing were processed for evidence and on two separate articles of clothing an unknown male DNA profile was identified.
The first male DNA profile was obtained from a swab of the pocket openings of Billie’s hooded sweatshirt found on her body in Charlotte.
This DNA profile was compared to a buccal swab of Brown.
The male DNA profile from the hooded sweatshirt was consistent with the DNA profile of Brown, and the probability of this DNA profile belonging to any other person is 1 in 2.7 quadrillion. The second male DNA profile was obtained from a swab of the outside, back center torso area of Billie’s shirt, also found on her body in Charlotte. This DNA profile was also compared with a buccal swab of Brown.
The male DNA profile from the shirt was consistent with the DNA profile of Brown, and the probability of this DNA profile belonging to any other person is 1 in 720 billion.
Originally from Maryland, Billie was attending culinary school in Norfolk at the time of her disappearance.
Shortly before 5 a.m. on September 18, Billie drove her cream-colored Mini Cooper through Gate One at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, where she worked as the Blimpie assistant manager.
Just 30 minutes later, her car was captured on surveillance camera leaving the base.
Hours after her disappearance, her cell phone was recovered in a dumpster off the base in a residential area of Norfolk.
Five days later, on September 23, her car was discovered in a quiet cul-de-sac in the nearby Ocean View neighborhood.
Following a two-week search for Billie, her remains were discovered in Charlotte. CNN affiliate Spectrum News reported they were found behind East Stonewall A.M.E. Zion Church.
'We will not rest'
The FBI had offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to Billie's location. Blimpie announced it would match the reward, increasing the total to $20,000.
"Our community should know that our work does not end here. Now our mission is to bring justice for Ashanti, and we will be relentless in our efforts to find who did this to her,"
Martin Culbreth, special agent in charge of the FBI's Norfolk division, said last month.