Three weeks after a Virginia teenager disappeared from a Naval base, the man eventually charged with her murder made a chilling statement, the FBI says.
“There ain’t nothing like the first taste of blood,” Eric Brown said during an alleged exchange last month with another inmate in the Virginia Beach City Jail.
“Sometimes it makes you do things that are unexplainable.”
Brown, 45, a Charlotte native and retired 21-year Navy veteran, is accused of first abducting Ashanti Billie, a 19-year-old Virginia Beach woman, then killing her before hiding her body in the tall grass not far from his childhood home. Federal officials in Virginia have charged him with kidnapping. Late Wednesday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police charged the retired Navy petty officer with murder.
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Brown’s comments to the other inmate, which allegedly took place while Brown was jailed on unrelated charges, are included in an FBI affidavit that was unsealed after his Wednesday arrest in connection with Billie’s murder.
The new document also portrays Brown, a homeless day laborer who slept in buildings on military bases in the Norfolk, Va., area, as a virtual stalker of Billie who tried to flirt with the young woman. At times, his comments could devolve into openly crude comments about the woman’s body, the affidavit says.
He is scheduled to make his an initial appearance in Norfolk federal court on Tuesday.
Billie went missing on Sept. 18 after failing to show up for her job as assistant manager at a Blimpie’s on the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek near Norfolk.
Surveillance video showed the teenager’s Mini-Cooper driving onto the base that morning before dawn. Thirty minutes later, it left the installation with a figure dressed in light-colored clothing now at the wheel. Two miles away, additional video showed the car stopped at a construction site where the driver tossed something into a dumpster. Several hours later, some workers recovered Billie’s cellphone, the affidavit says.
A former co-worker who saw the dumpster video later identified the man who threw the object as Brown, the affidavit says.
On Sept. 23, Billie’s unlocked car was found in Norfolk with the keys on the passenger seat. Billie’s work shirt, a pair of a woman’s dark pants and one shoe were in the rear compartment. Investigators found dirt and other debris in the pants, as if they had been removed on bare ground. According to the affidavit, the car had been wiped clean of fingerprints.
Billie’s partially clothed body was found on Sept. 29 in a wooded, overgrown area behind the East Stonewall AME Zion Church in north Charlotte. Her pants were missing, and her arms were bound above her head inside a dark-colored hooded sweatshirt and shirt, the affidavit says. She was lying on a plastic sheet, and a plastic glove was found nearby.
DNA samples taken from the clothing later matched Brown’s, the FBI says.
Brown, according to the affidavit, had grown up 300 yards away on Crawford Drive. He had attended vacation bible school at the church.
A brother told the FBI that he had not heard from Brown for three years, ever since the family lost the Crawford Drive home to foreclosure.
An apparent relative of the accused put out a statement on email Thursday, saying Brown’s family is “deeply saddened at the tragic loss of Ms. Ashanti Billie’s life.”
“We cannot imagine the impact her death has on those lovingly connected to her,” the statement says. “Although we are shaken by the recent arrest ... our immediate concern is for those who knew and loved Ms. Billie, and we pray for them to be supported in every way possible.”
Brown was arrested in early October in Virginia on a series of charges, including trespassing and solicitation.
On Oct. 4, according to the affidavit, he made his comments to the fellow Virginia Beach inmate about “the first taste of blood.”
A week later, he was interviewed by the FBI – telling them he did not know of Billie’s disappearance and death because he had blacked out on the base for several days around the same time the woman was reported missing.
“At the end of the interview, Brown confirmed that he could not say if he did anything to the victim,” the affidavit says. “He also confirmed that he could not say he did not do anything.”
Reporter Jane Wester contributed.