The search for a missing teen is back on, nearly a decade after she was last seen or heard from. For her family, the answers can’t come soon enough. In 2009, 17-year-old Brittanee Drexel disappeared without a trace. She had traveled to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for a spring break trip away from her home in Rochester, New York. She didn’t tell her parents about the trip, and she didn’t make it back.
The case sat mostly silent for the next seven years, with her family having no idea what had become of her or even whether she was dead or alive. Investigators had little evidence to work with, except for security footage from a hotel camera, the last place she was seen alive. Now, FBI officials believe they might have made a new break in the case, one that might help answer the questions of what happened to Brittanee Drexel all those years ago.
Last August, the detectives working on Drexel’s case came up with an utterly gruesome possible scenario. They believed that Drexel had been kidnapped and gang-raped by a father-son duo in McClellanville, South Carolina, a small community about 90 minutes south of Myrtle Beach. When Drexel tried to escape, they thought, she was fatally shot, and her body disposed of in an alligator swamp.
Brittanee’s family had a hard time accepting this outcome, and the FBI accusations against the two suspected men, Timothy Shaun Taylor and Timothy Da’Shaun Taylor, went nowhere.
Now, local South Carolina police and FBI officials have opened a new search in the woods of Georgetown County, another 30 minutes away from McClellanville. Though no trace of Drexel’s body has ever been found, authorities are doubtful that she is still alive.
“We’re not going to discuss what we found and what we didn’t find,” FBI Supervisory Agent Don Wood told reporters at the end of their three-day search through the forest. “But I’m confident in telling you that the investigation was advanced. We made strides in bringing those responsible for Brittanee’s death to justice.”
Meanwhile, Brittanee’s family is anxiously awaiting news or information — anything that might help bring them closure and peace.
“Of course we have every confidence in the FBI and the law enforcement working this case, but without knowing more information, [Britannee’s mother] Dawn Drexel is on pins and needles, waiting to find out what they found, if anything, and how this will affect hopefully the eventual prosecution of the people responsible for what was done to her daughter,” said the family’s attorney, Brad Conway.
The FBI has offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of suspects in connection with the case. Brittanee’s mother, on the other hand, has turned her grief into a meaningful cause. She started the Brittanee’s Little Angels fund last year in order to support other families dealing with human trafficking or missing children cases. “I know how hard it is to go through something like this,” Dawn told People. “There is no handbook for when a child is missing, but we can help other families through it. Just continue to pray.”