Monday, April 15, 2024

Federal prosecutors seek competency evaluation for man accused of murdering Ashanti Billie

Eric Brown, charged with murder and kidnapping in the death of Ashanti Billie. (Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office)

NORFOLK — Federal prosecutors are pushing for a mental competency evaluation of a 45-year-old man accused of kidnapping a 19-year-old woman from a U.S. Navy base, murdering her and disposing of her body in North Carolina.

Prosecutors Randy Stoker and Kevin Comstock filed a motion for a psychiatric evaluation of Eric Brian Brown, who is charged in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Virginia with kidnapping Ashanti Billie on Sept. 18.

He is also charged by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police with murdering Billie and disposing of her body in tall grass located next to a North Carolina church Brown went to as a kid and 300 yards away from his childhood home, according to court documents.

Evidence against Brown includes DNA, which was found on Billie’s body and inside of her white Mini Cooper, which Brown allegedly drove off the Navy base after attacking her as she was on her way into work at a Blimpie sub shop, according to court documents.

According to a proposed order filed by prosecutors on Dec. 1, officials believe Brown needs to be evaluated to determine if he is mentally ill and competent to stand trial. A person who is not competent to stand trial would be someone who is physically or mentally incapable of understanding the charges against them and court proceedings, thereby rendering them unable to help their own defense attorneys.

The prosecutors argued that a judge should take several alleged factors into account when deciding if Brown should be evaluated for competency, including:

  • Odd interactions between Brown and law enforcement prior to his Sept. 30 arrest in Norfolk where he made “deeply troubling statements” and acted with “bizarre conduct”
  • Information Brown has provided to officials about his mental health that raised “significant” concerns
  • Information Brown told to a prison psychologist and social services staff
  • Recorded observations by prison staff that show Brown acting in an odd way since he was jailed on federal charges

“Such examination should determine whether he is suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense,” the motion reads.

The motion does not detail exactly what types of behavior led prosecutors to believe Brown’s competency should be evaluated, but FBI Special Agent James Faulkner testified in November that agents who followed Brown during their investigation witnessed him sleeping in a Navy base gym, acting erratically by trying to open up random cars and visiting a known prostitute at an Econo Lodge on North Hampton Boulevard.

In one incident, Brown allegedly confronted an officer who was trailing him and asked if he was being followed. Brown told the officer that he’d been followed before by someone who wanted to harvest his organs, Faulkner testified.

Prosecutors are asking a federal judge to order that the competency evaluation be held at a federal facility, such as the Federal Medical Center Butner in North Carolina.

According to the motion, Brown’s defense attorney’s, Andrew Grindrod and Keith Kimball, plan to object to the proposed evaluation and argue that he should have a local examination instead of a federal one.

Ultimately, a judge will have to make that call.

Send news tips to adrienne.m@wydaily.com.

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