CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WAVY/WNCN/AP) – Authorities confirmed Saturday afternoon that the body of a missing Virginia Beach, Virginia college student was found Friday morning near a church in North Carolina.
The FBI in Norfolk told WAVY-TV that Ashanti Billie, who was missing for 11 days, was found dead behind a Charlotte church.
A source close to the family told WAVY-TV that the family was notified Friday about a body that was found behind East Stonewall AME Zion Church in Charlotte around 10:30 a.m. Friday.
WBTV reported Saturday that Billie’s death is now being investigated as a homicide.
Authorities say a man cutting grass Friday morning at the church smelled a strange odor, then found Ashanti Billie’s body.
“While he was cutting…there was some boulders back in the church and he was doing his trimming and he initially smelled something and as he looked he couldn’t identify it assuming it might have been a deer or something,” Reverend Michael McLean of East Stonewall AME Zion Church told CBS affiliate WBTV. “Then, he went and got the foreman. The foreman came and they identified it as a body and at that point called 911.”
Police didn’t release a cause of death or if they know how the teen ended up in North Carolina.
On Friday, Ashanti Billie’s family was told to be prepared to head to Charlotte, if needed.
Martin Culbreth, Special Agent in Charge of the Norfolk Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation released this statement Saturday afternoon:
It is with deep regret that I inform the community that Ashanti Billie has been located, deceased, in Charlotte, North Carolina. 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.
Thank you to the investigative team which includes the FBI, NCIS, Virginia Beach Police Department, and Norfolk Police Department for your tireless devotion to finding Ashanti. Your commitment to this effort demonstrates the true heart of law enforcement and I am proud of each and every one of you.
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. 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.
Billie was last seen driving on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story for work on Sept. 18. Billie worked at Blimpie’s Subs on the base.
Police recovered her cell phone on Sept. 18 in a dumpster on the corner of Tallyho Terrace and Azalea Garden Road in Norfolk, which is a couple miles away from the base.
Billie’s cream-colored Mini Cooper was found last Saturday in the 9500 block of Lakeside Drive in Ocean View.
Anyone with information is asked to call Charlotte Crime Stoppers at (704) 334-1600 or the FBI Norfolk Field Office at (757) 455-0100.