Legislation named for a Virginia Beach woman was signed into law by President Donald Trump on Monday, hours before the year would come to an end.
The Ashanti Alert Act, first introduced in Congress by Rep. Scott Taylor earlier this year, will help public safety agencies quickly locate a missing adult between the ages of 18 and 65. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives in September.
The law is named in honor of Ashanti Billie, a 19-year-old Virginia Beach resident who disappeared from a Virginia Beach military base last year. She was later found dead in North Carolina.
#BREAKING: President Trump signs Ashanti Alert Act into law https://t.co/wQGyuHHQgF pic.twitter.com/kUHtrv8ZYm
— WTKR News 3 (@WTKR3) December 31, 2018
Police were unable to issue an Amber Alert after her disappearance because it can only be used if the missing person is under 18. Billie’s parents, Brandy and Meltony Billie, told a Pilot reporter previously that they thought an alert could have saved her life.
“Out of this dark tragedy, light and hope will come for families across the country in 2019,” Taylor, R-Virginia Beach, tweeted on Monday after Trump signed the legislation.
#breaking Had an emotional conversation w/Brandi Billie, mother of Ashanti & spoke w/her father Meltony. Thank you @realDonaldTrump for signing #ashantialert into law on this NYE. Out of this dark tragedy, light & hope will come for families across country in 2019. @MarkWarner pic.twitter.com/URsxPX49Eb
— Scott Taylor (@Scotttaylorva) December 31, 2018
According to a news release from Sen. Mark Warner, Gov. Ralph Northam signed into law legislation introduced by Del. Jay Jones creating a statewide Ashanti Alert system in Virginia before the House of Representatives unanimously passed its version of the Ashanti Alert Act in September.
The original bill was later blocked from passing in the Senate, the release said. After revisions to the act were made by Warner and Jones, the House of Representatives passed a modified Ashanti Alert Act in December.
“Despite the tragic loss of Ashanti Billie, with the love and support of Meltony and Brandy Billie along with the Hampton Roads community, the Ashanti Alert Act is now law of the land,” Warner said in the release. “In this New Year, it is my hope that this important law enforcement tool can help save countless lives.”
Eric Brian Brown, a homeless Navy veteran, is charged with kidnapping resulting in death in connection with Billie’s death. Brown could face the death penalty if convicted.
“We are elated that this legislation has been enacted… The Ashanti Alert will be a beacon of hope for those that have a loved one deemed as missing under questionable circumstances,” Billie’s mother, Brandy Billie, said in the release Monday. “Our dream is to bring as many as possible of those missing back home safely.”
© 2019 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)
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