The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement that Eric Brian Brown, 46, is accused of abducting 19-year-old Ashanti M. Billie in September 2017 on the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia. Brown then allegedly transported Billie against her will and across state lines to North Carolina. Billie died as a result of the kidnapping.
Prosecutors said that “if convicted of kidnapping resulting in death, Brown faces a maximum penalty of death and a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison.”
Brown is also charged with theft, and assault resulting in serious bodily injury. If convicted of those two offenses, he faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Circumstances of the Crime
Billie, a student at The Art Institute of Virginia Beach, disappeared on Sept. 18 after heading to work at a Blimpie’s sandwich shop, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
She was found 11 days later, about 300 yards from where Brown lived as a child, her body bearing signs of battery.
Witnesses cited by the news outlet told federal investigators that Brown had been spotted hanging around the Blimpie’s and that he repeatedly tried to flirt with Billie before she disappeared.
DNA evidence was later recovered linking Brown to the crime, the news outlet reported, citing an affidavit. Investigators also found incriminating cellphone and video records.
According to the affidavit, a review of Brown’s phone showed he made several internet searches the day after Billie disappeared.
The search terms included “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.”
Surveillance cameras also captured an individual appearing to toss something into the dumpster where construction workers found the victim’s cellphone.
FBI Special Agent James Faulkner noted that Brown, who left the Navy in 2011 after 20 years, worked as a day laborer and took part in the construction of the Blimpie’s restaurant where Billie worked.
He noted the accused appeared to be homeless.
The victim’s co-workers told investigators they would often see Brown around the Blimpie’s, but after Billie disappeared, he stopped showing up.
A woman who worked at a laundromat next door to the Blimpie’s told The Virginian-Pilot that Brown would often come in and watch movies on his laptop or cellphone.
“He’d be there when I got there early in the morning, and he’d be there when I left,” she told the news outlet.
She said Brown would make her feel uncomfortable, asking personal questions about her relationships and sex life.
A former co-worker of Brown’s contacted the FBI after seeing media reports that included the dumpster video.
Brown has been in custody in Virginia Beach since at least Oct. 3 on charges unrelated to Billie’s disappearance, including solicitation of prostitution.
A jailhouse informant reportedly told investigators that Brown made disturbing comments about paying a visit to a woman who had reported him to the police.
“There ain’t nothing like the first taste of blood,” Brown said, according to the informant. “Sometimes it makes you do things that are unexplainable.”
Brown told investigators that he was in the area on the evening before Billie’s disappearance, but that he had no recollection of what he did for several days afterward, claiming that he blacked out.