By Alaa Elassar and Nadeem Muaddi, CNN
Human remains found behind a church in Charlotte, North Carolina, are those of Ashanti Billie, a Virginia woman who earlier this month went missing from a military base in Virginia, authorities said Saturday.
“It is with deep regret that I inform the community that Ashanti Billie has been located, deceased, in Charlotte, North Carolina,” said Martin Culbreth, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Norfolk division. “I, along with the entire investigative team, offer our most sincere condolences to the Billie family, especially Ashanti’s parents Brandy and Tony. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”
Billie, 19, had been missing since September 18, when she didn’t show up for work at a Blimpie sandwich shop on the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Norfolk, Virginia, or culinary classes at the Art Institute of Virginia Beach.
The Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s Office and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department identified Billie’s remains, which were discovered Friday behind a church more than 300 miles from where she went missing.
Shortly before 5 a.m. on September 18, Billie drove her cream-colored Mini Cooper through Gate One at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, where she worked as the Blimpie assistant manager.
Just 30 minutes later, her car was captured on surveillance camera leaving the base. The FBI says it doesn’t know whether Billie was behind the wheel, and that nobody saw or heard from her after that.
Hours after her disappearance, her cell phone was recovered in a dumpster off the base in a residential area of Norfolk.
Five days later, on September 23, her car was discovered in a quiet cul-de-sac in the nearby Ocean View neighborhood.
Following a two-week search for Billie, her remains were discovered in Charlotte. CNN affiliate Spectrum News reported they were found behind East Stonewall A.M.E. Zion Church.
‘We will not rest’
The FBI had offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to Billie’s location. Blimpie announced it would match the reward, increasing the total to $20,000.
Following confirmation Saturday that the remains belonged to Billie, authorities vowed to keep investigating her case.
“Our community should know that our work does not end here. Now our mission is to bring justice for Ashanti, and we will be relentless in our efforts to find who did this to her,” said Culbreth. “We will not rest until the person who robbed Ashanti of her life, her promise and her future is held fully accountable under the law.”
Authorities are asking anyone with information regarding Billie’s death to come forward.