Ashanti Alert: Md. family’s tragedy could spark new alert for missing adults

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed a bill that is aimed at finding missing adults. The Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 intends to get alerts issued for missing adults between the ages of 18-64, similar to that of Amber Alerts issued for missing children.

The legislation is named after 19-year-old Ashanti Billie, a Prince George’s County, Maryland, native who disappeared from a military base in Hampton Roads, Virginia, in September 2017. She was found dead in North Carolina two weeks later.

Navy veteran Eric Brian Brown, 45, was charged in her abduction and murder.

“Ashanti Billie, who was at 19 years old, kind of fell through the cracks of our system,” said Democratic Sen. Mark Warner from Virginia.

Ashanti Billie was last seen on Sept. 18, 2017. The FBI released a recent driver’s license photo during the search. She was later found dead in North Carolina. (Courtesy FBI Norfolk)

Billie was too old for an Amber Alert to be sent out. But her parents, Meltony and Brandy Billie, felt that if some sort of an alert had been issued for their daughter, the outcome could have been different.

“We don’t want any family to ever have to experience this,” said father Meltony Billie.

Warner said if this version of the Ashanti Alert Act makes it through the House of Representatives and receives President Donald Trump’s signature, police could send out alerts using radio, TV and street signs, which could result in more eyes on the lookout for the missing adult.

A similar version of the Ashanti Alert Act, introduced by Republican Rep. Scott Taylor of Virginia’s 2nd District, passed the House unanimously in September.

Billie was last seen heading to work at a sandwich shop on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek on Sept. 18, 2017. Police said surveillance video showed Billie arriving in her car. Then, a half hour later, her car left with someone else behind the wheel. Police believe the person driving was Brown.

The legislation warns against overuse of the alerts. Some of the situations in which alerts could be issued include a history of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse or human trafficking for the missing person. An individual’s mental capacity could also prompt the use of the alert.

“We want it to have the same kind of jolt, the public effect, that quite honestly the Amber Alert does,” Warner said.

The Ashanti Alert has already been passed into law in Virginia, and Billie’s parents hope it soon becomes an alert used across the nation.

“Every time we see an Ashanti Alert, it’s going to be kind of like a hug from her, coming to us,” said mother Brandy Billie.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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