by: Joe Bruno, Stephanie Tinoco Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Police are conducting a homicide investigation after a young woman's body was discovered on the lawn of East Stonewall AME Zion Church in northwest Charlotte.
Police confirmed the death of 19-year-old Ashanti Billie, from Virginia.
The FBI is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to an arrest, prosecution or conviction of the person or persons responsible for Billie's death.
A landscaping crew working on the lawn of the Griers Grove Road church found the body, police said.
The pastor said the woman's body was behind a couple of boulders in the back of the property. Her body was partially decomposed, police said.
The death is suspicious, but police aren't saying whether they suspect foul play.
"She's just a woman,19 years old,” said Shakita Watson, who lives near the church. “She was young. Who could have found in their heart to do her like that?"
Police said Billie was the subject of a missing person investigation in Norfolk, Virginia. She had been missing since Sept. 18.
Billie disappeared and her family was going to Charlotte to speak with police, according to the ABC affiliate in Norfolk.
"Our desires, our prayers were answered,” Meltony Billie, Ashanti's father, said. “She's home with God and we're okay with that."
"To the person or persons that decided they wanted to take her away from us and away from everyone that loved her, you're a coward," said Brandi Billie, Ashanti's mother. "You don't deserve to breathe the air that she breathe at all."
Meltony Billie thanked everyone involved with the search and tied in his daughter's disappearance with the recent controversy of players kneeling during football games.
"The national anthem is one minute and 23 seconds,” he said. “Probably how long it took for that person to snatch my daughter up."
Meltony Billie asked President Donald Trump to redirect his focus and help other people, like Ashanti, who are waiting to be found.
"I say to you Mr. President, finding young folks, missing folks, is more important than people standing up for the anthem, and I'm a veteran. I've served this country,” he said.
Rev. Michael McLean said he wouldn't be surprised if the death involved criminal activity.
"Unfortunately, there is a lot of crime in this area. As a community we want to address these issues," McLean said.
Homicide detectives and the medical examiner spent Friday at the church investigating the death, which is standard procedure for suspicious deaths.
Officers are trying to determine how long the body had been there and how it got there.
Martin Culbreth, Special Agent in Charge of the Norfolk Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, released this statement:
“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.”
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