Ashanti Billie's family wonders how alleged killer was allowed to roam around on base

Eric Brian Brown


By SCOTT DAUGHERTY | The Virginian-Pilot | Published: November 9, 2017

CHESAPEAKE, Va.  (Tribune News Service) — The family of Ashanti Billie wants to know why a homeless veteran was able to live in the common areas of a Virginia Beach Navy base this year before federal agents say he kidnapped and killed their daughter.

During a news conference this morning outside the FBI's field office in Chesapeake, Brandy and Meltony Billie expressed concern about the security at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story and the safety of female soldiers who live and work there. They noted that the man charged in their daughter's death had no legitimate reason to be on base, but no one seemed to care.

"How was this guy allowed to roam around on base?" Meltony Billie asked the reporters

"You would expect people to be safe in a military area, especially such an installation," his wife added.

Eric Brian Brown, 45, was charged this week with kidnapping Ashanti Billie on Sept. 18 from the base and murdering her elsewhere. The kidnapping charge was filed in U.S. District Court in Norfolk, and the murder charge was filed in state court in Charlotte, N.C., where her body was found Sept 29.

Brown, a former petty officer first class who retired from the Navy in 2011 after 20 years, is incarcerated. A detention hearing is set for Tuesday in Norfolk.

Billie, a student at The Art Institute of Virginia Beach, disappeared after heading to work at a Blimpie’s sandwich shop on the base. Her battered body was found 11 days later, about 300 yards from Brown’s childhood home on property owned by a church he attended as a kid.

Billie’s cellphone was found in a dumpster off Azalea Garden Road in Norfolk hours after she disappeared, and her car was discovered about 7 miles away on Lakeside Drive in Ocean View five days later.

According to an affidavit unsealed Wednesday, the government has DNA, cellphone and video evidence linking Brown to the crime, as well as other circumstantial evidence.

Ashanti Billie’s co-workers told investigators they saw Brown around the Blimpie’s so often they thought he worked at the laundromat next door. But he did not.

FBI Special Agent James Faulkner noted in the affidavit that investigators watched Brown for several days before his arrest early last month on unrelated charges. Among other things, they saw him sleep at a 24-hour laundromat on the base and in a television room at the base's gym. They said he also showered and changed clothing at the gym.

Federal investigators interviewed Brown on Oct. 27 at the Virginia Beach City Jail, the affidavit said. He told agents he was on base the evening before Ashanti Billie's disappearance but claimed he blacked out and had no recollection of what he did for the next several days. He said he could not remember whether he did anything to Billie, but he also could not rule it out.

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