NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- A bill has been put forward in the House of Delegates that aims to help get the word out about missing and endangered adults.
House Bill 260 amends existing law to include a "Virginia Critically Missing Adult Alert Program." The bill, co-sponsored by Delegate-elect Jay Jones of Norfolk's 89th District, was spurred by last year's disappearance and murder of 19-year-old Ashanti Billie.
Amber Alerts are for missing and endangered children who are 17 years old and younger, while Silver Alerts are for adults 65 years and older. However, there are no alerts for people like Ashanti, who fall in between the age gap.
"This is a public safety issue,” Jones previously told 13News Now. "We’d like to make it an 'Ashanti Alert' to honor Ashanti Billie.”
In a Facebook post made on the day Ashanti’s body was identified in North Carolina, her mother Brandy Billie said, “I wholeheartedly believe that had there been some type of alert, that was able to be put out for her. She may have been coming home with us with her own free will."
The newly proposed bill would create a "Critically Missing Adult Alert Program" by Virginia State Police and local law enforcement. Part of the current draft reads:
Critically Missing Adult Alerts may be local, regional, or statewide. The initial decision to make a local Critically Missing Adult Alert shall be at the discretion of the local law-enforcement official. Prior to making a local Critically Missing Adult Alert, the local law-enforcement official shall confer with the Virginia State Police and provide information regarding the critically missing adult to the Virginia State Police. The decision to make a regional or statewide Critically Missing Adult Alert shall be at the discretion of the Virginia State Police.
"After the tragic death of Ashanti and extensive conversations with the Billie family, we saw a need for legislation to address this segment of missing persons," Delegate-elect Jones said in a statement on Friday. "Once the legislative session commences, we will continue to work alongside interested parties and legislators on both sides of the aisle to see this through.”
If it becomes law, an Ashanti Alert would mean family would not have to wait 24 hours before filing a missing person's case.
The 2018 General Assembly session begins on January 10 in Richmond.
Ashanti Billie worked at a Blimpie's restaurant at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek. She had gone in to work on the morning of September 18, when surveillance video recorded her Mini Cooper leaving the base.
Nearly two weeks later, her body was found near a church in Charlotte, North Carolina.
45-year-old Eric Brown, a homeless man and retired Navy veteran who reportedly lived at random facilities and buildings on and off the naval bases, was arrested and charged with Billie's murder.
© 2018 WVEC-TV