NORFOLK, Va. – A retired Navy veteran was arrested today for the kidnapping of Ashanti M. Billie, a 19 year-old Virginia Beach woman.
According to court documents, 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. On September 29, Billie’s body was found in a wooded area behind a church on Greir’s Grove Road in Charlotte, North Carolina, approximately 300 yards from Brown’s childhood home.
According to court documents, 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. Based on the investigation to date, agents believe that Brown is homeless and lives at random facilities and buildings on and off the naval bases. Billie’s coworkers reported that Brown would visit the Blimpie’s almost every day, and that he was seen so often in the neighboring buildings, such as a 24-hour laundromat directly next door, that they believed Brown worked there. Witnesses reported seeing Brown 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.
Video surveillance recorded Billie’s car enter the base at 4:58 a.m. on September 18, and circle the Blimpie’s at 5 a.m. The driver of the vehicle in both videos was a person wearing dark colored clothing, consistent with the clothing Billie was reportedly wearing. Video surveillance recorded a person in light colored clothing driving Billie’s car exit the base at approximately 5:33 a.m. At approximately 5:44 a.m., residential video surveillance recorded a person wearing light colored clothing driving a car consistent with Billie’s stop at a construction dumpster in Norfolk. A few hours later, construction workers found Billie’s cell phone in the dumpster.
According to court documents, 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 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.
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.
During an interview with law enforcement on October 27, Brown told agents he was on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek on the evening of September 17, and that at one point 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.
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.
Brown has been charged with kidnapping and faces a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.