WASHINGTON (WAVY) — The final hours of 2018 brought welcome news for the family of a 19-year-old woman who met a tragic fate after being abducted from Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek back in 2017: the federal bill designed to help avoid further tragedies like the one that befell the late Ashanti Billie has been signed into law.
H.R.5075, which would create a nationwide alert network similar to the Amber Alert for missing adults between the ages of 18-64, was signed into law on Monday by President Donald Trump.
The bill was proposed back in February 2018 by outgoing Congressman Scott Taylor of Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, and passed in both houses of Congress in December. Senator Mark Warner sponsored the Senate version of the bill.
“Out of this dark tragedy, light & hope will come for families across country in 2019,” Taylor tweeted Monday night, saying how he had an emotional conversation with Billie’s parents after hearing the news.
10 On Your Side spoke with Taylor on Tuesday.
He says about 98 percent of bills do not become law so he’s thankful that President Trump signed it, amidst a government shutdown.
“Politics can overtake good things sometimes, unfortunately. But it didn’t this time and I’m thankful,” he said.
Taylor said he spoke over the phone with Billie’s parents after being notified about the alert and says they were also thankful that their daughter’s legacy would help others.
#breaking Had an emotional conversation w/Brandi Billie, mother of Ashanti & spoke w/her father Meltony. Thank you @realDonaldTrump for signing #ashantialert into law on this NYE. Out of this dark tragedy, light & hope will come for families across country in 2019. @MarkWarner pic.twitter.com/URsxPX49Eb— Scott Taylor (@Scotttaylorva) December 31, 2018
Warner’s office released this statement Monday night: “Despite the tragic loss of Ashanti Billie, with the love and support of Meltony and Brandy Billie along with the Hampton Roads community, the Ashanti Alert Act is now law of the land. In this New Year, it is my hope that this important law enforcement tool can help save countless lives.”
Billie’s parents led the push for the creation of a system to help find critically missing adults following her death, as Ashanti was considered too old for an AMBER Alert to be issued. They enrolled the help of both Taylor and Virginia State Delegate Jerrauld Jones (D-Norfolk) to sponsor bills at the federal and state levels. The Virginia version of the act was passed earlier this year and signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam.
On Thursday, Billie’s parents released this official statement about the bill’s passing:
“We, the parents of Ashanti Billie, are eternally grateful by the signing of the Ashanti Alert. Though our hearts may get heavy at times, God reminds us that her life was not in vain. Through the passage of this law, there is the potential to help missing adults be reunited with their loved ones. Until the abduction of our beloved daughter Ashanti, we were unaware that there was no notification system in place for missing adults. The Ashanti Alert will work in a very similar manner as both the Amber and Silver Alerts. There will be specific criteria that law enforcement officials will require to be met before qualifying for the Ashanti Alert. As with the standing up of any new law, specifics and processes are the next step and we eagerly await more guidance and information from the Department of Justice. Our daughter was truly a blessing to us, and now through the Ashanti Alert she can be a blessing to others.”
Meltony and Brandy Billie
Eric Brian Brown, a retired Navy veteran, is accused of abducting Billie from Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach back in September 2017, killing her, and dumping her body in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Brown’s been deemed incompetent to stand trial for months, but documents filed in October showed he’s had “slow yet consistent improvement” to medications and could eventually regain competency for trial. He could face the death penalty or life in prison if convicted on the federal charge of kidnapping resulting in death.