The body of a woman found in Charlotte on Friday has been identified as that of a missing 19-year-old college student who disappeared Sept. 18 in the Virginia Beach area.
Authorities said the Mecklenburg County medical examiner's office identified the body discovered behind a church Friday morning as that of Ashanti Billie, a student at a culinary school in Virginia Beach, who was last seen Sept. 18 about 5 a.m. as she entered a military base, where she worked at a sandwich shop.
Investigators did not release a cause or manner of death and gave no indications of how Billie's body ended up more than 300 miles from where she was last seen.
At a news conference Saturday evening, Billie's parents thanked those who sent prayers and messages of support from across the country and helped search for their daughter and locate her body. Then her mother, Brandy Johnson Billie, delivered pointed words for whoever was responsible for her Ashanti's death.
"The person or persons that decided they wanted to take my baby away from us . . . you are a coward. You don't deserve to breathe the air that she breathed," Johnson Billie said.
Meltony Billie, the teenager's father, urged the public to help other missing people find their way home.
"We say to everyone, stay encouraged," he said. "This was not one of the outcomes we were seeking, but yet still we stay in the fight because there are other young people who are out there missing. Our desire and our prayers were answered. She's home. She's home with God."
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police responded about 10:30 a.m. Friday after a caller stated they found what appeared to be a deceased body in the back of a church, police officials said.
The FBI had been investigating Billie's disappearance, and police officials said that FBI agents and other agencies are helping with the homicide investigation.
"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," said Martin Culbreth, special agent in charge of the Norfolk Division of the FBI. "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."
Billie, who graduated from Henry A. Wise Jr. High School in Prince George's County, moved to Virginia to attend the Art Institute of Virginia Beach, where she studied culinary arts. She had recently started working at a Blimpie sub restaurant at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story.
In interviews before her body was discovered, Billie's parents said she loved cooking and dreamed of opening a bakery or becoming an executive chef. Meltony Billie said his daughter made him crepes for Father's Day and described her as "a comical young lady" who also loved dogs, especially their 10-year-old Shih Tzu named Rahab.
Billie's parents are Army veterans, and her father told The Post that he encouraged her to take a job on the military base.
"I thought it was more of a secure environment, so I was excited for her to work on base," he said.
Investigators said Billie entered the base about 5 a.m. on Sept. 18 but never arrived at work. A short while later, video shows her Mini Cooper leaving the base, but it was not clear whether Billie was in it, officials said previously.
Authorities recovered her cellphone in a dumpster in the Norfolk area, and on Sept. 23 they recovered her car in Norfolk as well.
The FBI and Blimpie have combined to offer a $20,000 reward for information that helps solve this case. Anyone with information is encouraged to call Virginia Beach Police at 757-385-5000, CrimeLine at 1-888-Lock-U-Up or FBI Norfolk at 757-455-0100.