Pastor: Community can ‘heal, move forward’ after arrest in Ashanti Billie's death

Brown (Source: WTKR)
Brown (Source: WTKR)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - For the last six weeks, members of East Stonewall AME Zion Church have been wondering why Virginia native Ashanti Billie's body ended up behind their building.

"We really didn't understand how she ended up here on this property here in Charlotte being from Virginia," Rev. Dr. Michael McLean, who is the pastor of the church, said. "What the connection was all about? And now the pieces are put together pretty much and that helps us to heal as a community and as a church."

On Sept. 29, the church called police after a landscaping crew found a woman's body in the tall grass behind the building. Investigators and federal agents realized it was Billie, who went missing on Sept. 18 from her work at a Blimpie restaurant at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia.

On Wednesday, police released a statement saying that information gathered from a collaborative investigation led detectives to name 45-year-old Eric Brian Brown as the suspect in Billie's disappearance and death. He was arrested in Virginia and charged with kidnapping.

Later in the day, detectives in Charlotte signed a warrant for murder against Brown. They believed he killed her and allegedly left her body here behind the church.  Investigators say they're still working to determine the exact location where Billie was killed.

"It brings a sense of relief not only for our church but this community," McLean said. ""We understand now some of what happened during this tragic event." Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said they are taking the lead on the homicide investigation.

Meanwhile, members of the church have been trying to figure out why was she left there.

"Unfortunately he chose our property to leave her body, but now we understand he thinks he was a part of this church and community but that brings us a sense of relief that they have him custody," Dr. McLean said.

According to court documents released Wednesday, Brown attended the church's vacation Bible school as a child. The church is also 300 yards from his childhood home.

"We embrace anyone coming to be a part of our ministry but he's not on our church rolls and no one is familiar in this congregation of him personally," McLean said.

Dr McLean says he's hoping the arrest of the suspect helps the Church community to move on.

"Because of the questions of the why and how but since those questions have been answered it kinda helps us to process this whole event and so we feel now that we can heal and move forward because he's been captured," Dr McLean said. "All we can do is continue to pray for Ashanti's family and pray for this brother that did this unfortunate crime."


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