Navy veteran charged with kidnapping, murder of college student
NORFOLK, Va. — An arrest has been made in the abduction and death of 19-year-old college student Ashanti Billie.
Detectives with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department charged Eric Brian Brown with Billie’s murder on Wednesday.
“Information and evidence gathered in collaboration with the FBI Norfolk, Norfolk PD, Virginia Beach PD, NCIS, U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI Charlotte during this investigation led detectives in confirming Brown as the suspect in this case,” the Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department said.
Officials say Brown will be served with the warrant for murder in Norfolk, where he is currently in custody.
According to court documents, Brown, 45, is accused of abducting Billie on September 18, the day her car was last seen leaving JEB Little Creek in Norfolk.
Court documents state that Brown, who spent 21 years in the Navy, including two months in San Diego, worked as a day laborer and participated in the construction of the Blimpie last summer.
Agents believe Brown is homeless and lives at random facilities and buildings on and off the naval bases.
Billie’s coworkers told officials that Brown visited the Blimpie almost every day and that he was often seen in neighboring buildings, including a 24-hour laundromat next door. The workers believed that Brown worked at the laundromat.
Witnesses said they saw Brown trying to flirt with Billie on several occasions. One witness said they heard a conversation where Brown made a crude sexual comment to Billie.
Surveillance video showed Billie’s car going into the base at 4:58 a.m. on September 18, and circle the Blimpie at 5 a.m. The driver in both videos was a person wearing dark colored clothing, consistent with the clothing Billie was reported wearing.
Video surveillance then shows a person in light-colored clothing driving Billie’s car leaving the base at approximately 5:33 a.m.
At approximately 5:44 a.m., surveillance video from a home shows a person wearing light-colored clothing driving a car that matches Billie’s stop at a construction dumpster. A few hours later, construction workers found Billie’s cell phone in the dumpster on Tallyho Terrace.
Billie’s Mini Cooper was found on September 23. Agents found Billie’s pants, which contained dirt and debris, inside of the car. The pants were consistent with being removed while outside and on the ground. The undercarriage of the car also had dirt and debris, consistent with being driven off-road.
During interviews conducted around September 30, several witnesses described seeing a car like Billie’s during the week of September 18 parked at several locations in Charlotte neighborhoods where Billie’s body was found.
Billie’s body was found in a wooded area behind Greir’s Grove Road in Charlotte, North Carolina. The church is approximately 300 yards from Brown’s childhood home and where he attended vacation Bible school as a child.
A review of Brown’s wireless internet usage data shows that Brown used his mobile devices almost every day from September 1 to September 29. The only day in that time period that no data was used was on the evening of September 17. Data usage resumed on September 19.
A review of Brown’s phone internet history shows that 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.”
Brown searched for information on Charlotte news websites on September 21, eight days before Billie’s body was located by law enforcement.
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 officials on October 27, Brown told agents he was on JEB Little Creek on the evening of September 17. He said 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, he confirmed that he could not remember if he did anything to her.
Billie’s body and clothing were processed for evidence. On two articles of clothing, an unknown male DNA profile was identified. The first profile was obtained from a swab of the pocket openings of Billie’s hoodie found on her body in Charlotte.
The DNA profile was compared to a swab of Brown’s DNA and proved to be consistent with his DNA profile. The probability of the DNA profile belonging to any other person is one in 2.7 quadrillion.
The second 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. The DNA profile of the shirt was also consistent with Brown’s DNA profile. The probability of this 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.
Kimberly Wimbish, the Billie family’s spokesperson, 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.”
Brown is expected to be in court late Wednesday afternoon.