NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The man accused of kidnapping and murdering Ashanti Billie could now face a minimum of life in prison and possibly the death penalty after a new indictment handed down by a federal grand jury.
Eric Brian Brown, 46, who’s still considered incompetent to stand trial following a December 2017 psychological evaluation, was indicted Wednesday in Norfolk Federal Court on the charge of kidnapping resulting in death.
Brown previously had been charged with murder and kidnapping by local authorities in North Carolina, but the federal kidnapping resulting in death includes a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison with the maximum sentence being death. The grand jury also charged Brown with assault resulting in serious bodily injury and theft, according to a release from the Department of Justice.
Brown, a retired Navy veteran, is accused of abducting Billie from Join Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach back in September 2017 and dumping her body in Charlotte, North Carolina. Authorities found Billie’s body 11 days after she disappeared, and an autopsy revealed she died of undetermined trauma.
Billie’s parents issued a statement on Thursday regarding the indictment:
We the parents of Ashanti Billie, Meltony and Brandy have been in constant communication with federal authorities throughout this investigation and we are pleased with the diligent work that they continue to do. From the beginning we understood that this would be a long and difficult process, however we remain vigilant and determined to see full and complete justice for the depraved individual that took our beautiful daughter from our family and the world. Yesterday’s indictment of Eric Brian Brown represents favorable movement but we remain watchful of the process until the end.
In response to Billie’s death, Virginia lawmakers passed HB 260 to create the Virginia Critically Missing Adult Alert Program and the “Ashanti Alert,” which notifies the public to missing adults that didn’t fit the criteria for AMBER (children) and Silver (senior citizens) alerts.
Rep. Scott Taylor also introduced a federal version of the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives in February. Though it passed the House in September, the U.S. Senate made a change to the bill before passing it on Dec. 6.
The bill will go back to the House one more time on Wednesday, where it’s expected to pass and head to President Trump’s desk.