VIRGINIA BEACH — A man who retired from the U.S. Navy after 21 years is accused of kidnapping and murdering 19-year-old Ashanti Billie on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story.
Investigators believe 45-year-old Eric Brian Brown kidnapped Billie on Sept. 18 as she was reporting for work at a Blimpie’s sub shop on the base.
Brown may have also dumped her partially clothed body in Charlotte, N.C. Billie was found on her back in tall grass located next to a church Brown went to as a kid and 300 yards away from his childhood home, according to court documents filed in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Virginia.
Although investigators have not released a possible motive, witnesses told the FBI that he hated black women and referred to them as “gold diggers” who were “hypnotized by social media,” court documents state.
Billie’s coworkers also told FBI agents that Brown frequented the Blimpie’s and other surrounding businesses, and that he tried to flirt with Billie. One coworker said that Brown made references to Billie’s body and made a sexually explicit comment to her, according to court documents.
Billie was seen wearing dark clothing when she entered the base around 5 a.m. She was reporting to work to prepare for a health inspection that was slated to happen that day. Her car was seen circling the sub shop about half an hour before it was seen exiting the base — this time being driven by someone in light-colored clothing, court documents state.
Around 5:45 a.m., a man wearing light-colored clothing was seen on resident surveillance footage throwing a cellphone into a dumpster near the corner of Tallyho Terrace and Azalea Garden Road in Norfolk. Later that day, a construction worker found Billie’s phone in the dumpster and gave it to the Norfolk Police Department, according to court documents.
After that video was released to the public by a local media source, a construction worker who worked with Brown called the FBI and said that he recognized him from the surveillance footage, court documents state.
Brown retired from the Navy as a petty officer who worked as an information system technician. He had access to area bases, and investigators believe he is homeless and lived — at least partially — on the Navy bases.
When Billie went missing, Brown was working as a “day laborer.” He was a worker on the crew that built the Blimpie’s that Billie worked at and was seen frequently at a nearby 24-hour laundromat, according to court documents.
Billie’s car was found on Sept. 23 in the Ocean View section of Norfolk. It wasn’t parked directly on the curb, the windows were rolled down and the keys were inside. Investigators also found Billie’s pants and a shoe inside the car. The pants had dirt on them, leading investigators to believe they were taken off of her while she was lying on the ground, court document state.
The bottom of her car also had dirt vegetation on it that led investigators to believe it had been taken off of the city streets. Police fingerprinted the car and found a partial print, which was consistent with the vehicle having been wiped clean of fingerprints, court documents state.
Although Brown used his wireless devices nearly every day, he did not on the day Billie went missing. When he did get back online, he searched for terms like “police looking for man” and “missing woman and man,” according to court documents.
And while investigators don’t believe he has a car, he was never directly seen leaving the Virginia Beach Navy base, but he returned to it on Sept. 19.
Billie’s coworkers also said they hadn’t seen him at the Blimpie’s since she went missing, although he used to come to the shop nearly every day, court documents state.
Billie’s body was found on Sept. 29 in Charlotte by a man cutting grass at East Stonewall AME Zion Church. She was on her back and the mummification process had already started. She was missing teeth, and her arms were bound above her head by a dark sweatshirt and shirt, according to court documents.
There was also plastic sheeting and a glove near her body. Investigators say they tested her body for DNA, finding two samples that matched Brown, court documents state.
Later in their investigation, police followed Brown. Their observations of him showed him sleeping in the Navy base’s gym, acting erratically by trying to open up random cars and visiting a known prostitute at an Econo Lodge on North Hampton Boulevard, court documents allege.
He was arrested for allegedly trespassing in Norfolk on Sept. 30 around 4:45 a.m. when a city officer spotted him walking up and down Interstate 64. On Oct. 1, the Virginia Beach Police Department arrested him and charged him with solicitation of a prostitute and frequenting a bawdy place, according to court documents.
He remained in custody at the Virginia Beach Correctional Center and never posted bond, although he was eligible.
When he was interviewed by police, he said that he blacked out on the night of Sept. 17 and couldn’t remember anything he’d done for several days. He also said that he couldn’t confirm or deny having kidnapped Billie, court documents state.
While in jail, Brown told another inmate that he’d committed serious crimes. He also allegedly said, “there ain’t nothing like the first taste of blood. Sometimes it makes you do things that are unexplainable,” court documents allege.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police in North Carolina say they signed a warrant for murder against Brown on Wednesday. The warrant will be served to Brown in Virginia.
The investigation remains active. Anyone with information is asked to call 704-432-TIPS and speak directly to Detective Morales. You can also call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.
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