Ashanti Alert bill passes in U.S. House of Representatives

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WASHINGTON (WAVY) — The federal version of the Ashanti Alert, created in honor of the late Ashanti Billie, passed in the House of Representatives by voice vote on Tuesday night.

H.R. 5075, introduced by Rep. Scott Taylor, will now go to the U.S. Senate. If it passes in the Senate, it will head to the president’s desk to potentially be signed into law. A version of the alert was just signed into law in Virginia this year.

Billie, 19, went missing in September 2017, when she never showed up for work on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. Her body was found more than a week and a half later behind a church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Police arrested retired Navy veteran Eric Brown, and charged him with kidnapping. Brown was schizophrenia and found incompetent to stand trial earlier this year.

AUTOPSY: Ashanti Billie died of undetermined trauma

In the aftermath of her death, lawmakers have worked to pass an “Ashanti Alert” bill that would establish a system to notify the public when an adult is missing.

At the time of her disappearance, Billie was too told for an Amber Alert and too young for a Senior Alert, according to police. The Ashanti Alert Act was passed in the Virginia General Assembly in March, and later signed by Gov. Ralph Northam.

Tuesday was a full day for the Billies.  They came to the U.S. Capitol to see the bill named after their daughter pass the House of Representatives.
 
Meltony and Brandy Billie met with Congressman Taylor in his office as they went over strategies on what to do with the bill in the future. 
 
They also had a news conference at the Capitol to express the next steps. The most important thing they need to do is get a friendly sponsor in the U.S. Senate.
 
Then they need to get it passed in the Senate, and then fast tracked to the president’s desk and hopefully it will be signed into law and implemented by the end of the year.
 
Back in Taylor’s office, the Billies and 25 others gathered to speak with Taylor, who one year ago to the day first met with the Billies. 
 
Taylor has formed a strong relationship with them, and has taken the issue on with an enthusiasm that was obviously appreciated in the room.  Meltony would say, “the Congressman made us a promise, and here we are today.”
 

In the room is a strong picture of Ashanti Billie, and she is never far from her parents’ thoughts.  When her parents look at the picture they think “confidence.” 

“I think her potential was cut short. She was taken from us. We are keeping her legacy alive with this bill,” Brandy Billie said. 

Meltony added, “she stands there like that standing strong, and Ashanti is strong, and she is standing strong for others. We are grateful. It means a lot to us because to know that she is still able to help people, and to know we can help people through this tragedy means a lot.  We had no one, and we hope no one goes through this again.”

At the Capitol steps, Taylor  told reporters, “I know there are no words, no wishes, no whispers that can bring her back, or ease the Billie family burden, but I also know no amount of darkness can ever keep out a bright light.”

Joining them were members from NCIS, the FBI, and Norfolk and Virginia Beach Police, who helped capture the man thought responsible for Ashanti’s death. 

“The Ashanti Alert is here to help those that go missing,” Brandy Billie said. “To get them attention. Until we had this, the loss of Ashanti, we didn’t know there wasn’t an alert in place for adults between 18-65.  The Ashanti Alert will fix the void.”

Taylor and a group of representatives introduced the Ashanti Alert Act in Congress back in February. Read the full text of the bill here.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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