Law enforcement officials in Georgetown County, South Carolina are preparing to announce an arrest in connection with the 2009 disappearance of Brittanee Drexel – the New York teenager who vanished without a trace thirteen years ago in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Local, state and federal law enforcement officials have declined to comment on the looming charges, but this news outlet has been reliably informed that an announcement related to the Drexel case from Georgetown County sheriff Carter Weaver is imminent – perhaps coming as soon as this week.
“They think they have their man,” one source familiar with the case told me.
Also, multiple searches were underway late Wednesday evening in connection with the Drexel case that could result in the discovery of her remains, these sources confirmed. One of these searches was focused on a wooded area west of Georgetown, S.C., and reportedly involved assets of the Georgetown sheriff’s office, the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Meanwhile, Drexel’s father – Chad Drexel – allegedly posted on Facebook that an arrest had been made in connection with his daughter’s disappearance. The post was later deleted and replaced by a subsequent message stating that “amazing progress” had been made in the investigation. That post was subsequently deleted, too.
News of Chad Drexel’s Facebook posts was first reported by James Battaglia of WROC TV-8 (CBS – Rochester, New York).
According to Battaglia, Chad Drexel said he was “not allowed to share any more information” but that “details would be shared in a press conference within the coming days.”
Late Wednesday evening, though, Drexel told WHEC TV-10 (NBC – Rochester, New York) that his Facebook page – which is no longer online – had been “hacked.”
The revelations (resolution?) regarding one of the Palmetto State’s most chilling cold cases came one week after Georgetown County deputies arrested 62-year-old Raymond Douglas Moody of Georgetown, S.C.
Moody was named as a person of interest in Drexel’s disappearance more than a decade ago.
The convicted sex offender was initially charged with obstruction of justice, however the record of his arrest has been scrubbed from the public index of the S.C. fifteenth judicial circuit. Sheriff Weaver has not confirmed that Moody’s arrest is linked to the Drexel case – and federal law enforcement sources have declined to comment on the investigation, referring all questions back to the sheriff’s office.
(Click to view)
(Via: Georgetown County Detention Center)
In addition to withholding comment, the Georgetown sheriff’s office is also withholding an incident report related to the arrest of Moody (above) – a decision which has infuriated local media and transparency advocates.
The obstruction of justice charge is still listed on Moody’s online booking record with the Georgetown County detention center – where he remains incarcerated as of Wednesday evening.
The Myrtle Beach, S.C. police department named Moody as a person of interest in connection with Drexel’s disappearance on February 16, 2012. The registered sex offender – who served two decades in a California prison for raping a child under the age of fourteen – was cited for speeding in Surfside Beach on Sunday, April 26, 2009, the day after Drexel vanished from the Blue Water Resort at 2001 S. Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach.
That citation was significant because Moody told investigators he was not in the area at the time Drexel went missing. Police searched his apartment at the Sunset Lodge on U.S. Highway 17 on August 1, 2011 – more than two years after Drexel was last seen – but nothing was found linking him to the missing teenager.
Moody moved into the Sunset Lodge apartment the day before Drexel disappeared, the owner of the facility told WMBF TV-32 (NBC – Myrtle Beach, S.C.) at the time of the search. He moved out six months later.
At the time of the search, police had not publicly named Moody as a person of interest in the Drexel case.
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Drexel (above), an aspiring nurse and star soccer player at her high school, had come to Myrtle Beach for spring break without her parents’ knowledge or consent – leading them to believe she was at nearby Charlotte Beach, New York instead.
“Mom, I’ll see you tomorrow, I love you,” Brittanee told her mother Dawn Drexel on Saturday, April 25, 2009 – the day of her disappearance.
Drexel wasn’t at Charlotte Beach, though … the 17-year-old was hundreds of miles away in South Carolina with three of her friends. The last person to see her alive was Peter Brozowitz of Rochester, New York. Brozowitz was a promoter who took Drexel to a local club on the evening of Friday, April 24, 2009. He and several of his friends saw Drexel briefly at the Blue Water Resort at around 8:00 p.m. EDT the following evening.
Ten minutes later, at 8:10 p.m. EDT that fateful Saturday evening, Drexel was seen exiting the hotel on a surveillance camera.
She has not been seen since …
(Click to view)
(Via: Find Brittanee Drexel)
Roughly an hour later, at 9:15 p.m. EDT, Drexel stopped responding to text messages and phone calls from her boyfriend, John Greico – who was in Rochester at the time of the disappearance. Greico threatened to tell Drexel’s parents where she really was if she didn’t respond to him. Still … nothing.
According to Myrtle Beach police, Drexel’s cell phone “pinged” more than once near the Georgetown/ Charleston County line after she disappeared. The last “ping” was recorded in the early morning hours of Sunday, April 26, 2009.
That was the last trace of her …
Five years ago, federal agents assisting state and local law enforcement in this investigation thought they had cracked the case when Taquan Brown – an inmate serving a 25-year manslaughter sentence at McCormick Correctional Institution – claimed to have witnessed Drexel’s death.
According to Brown, Drexel was forcibly abducted by a group of black men in Myrtle Beach, S.C. These men allegedly beat her up, sexually assaulted her and transported her to a “stash house” (or “trap house”) near McClellanville – a small fishing village located on Highway 17 roughly halfway between Myrtle Beach and Charleston, S.C.
There, Drexel was allegedly chained to a wall while the men who abducted her took money from other black males eager to “f*ck the white girl” – a process known as “bunnying.” According to Brown’s narrative, Drexel somehow managed to free herself from her chains – but was pistol-whipped, shot and killed before she could escape from the house. Drexel’s body was then allegedly rolled up in a rug and taken to an alligator pit in the Santee region of the state – where it was said to have been disposed of on May 2, 2009.
Police searched nearly forty possible alligator pit locations in and around Santee … but found nothing.
It is not clear what – if any – evidence Brown offered in support of his claims. Nonetheless, his jailhouse confession – and corroborative testimony from a second informant who was incarcerated in Georgetown County at the time – was evidently sufficient for federal authorities to put the squeeze on then-26-year-old Timothy Da’Shaun Taylor, the alleged ringleader of the “bunnying” operation.
I wrote extensively about these federal efforts at the time, including the filing of a controversial “double jeopardy” charge against Taylor in the hopes of forcing him to confess to his alleged involvement in Drexel’s abduction and murder.
Taylor steadfastly maintained his innocence despite the federal pressure.
“I had no involvement with anything to do with Brittanee Drexel,” Taylor told my news outlet back in 2016. “I don’t know Taquan Brown and I don’t know why he would call my name. I am being prosecuted again for a crime I already helped them solve and already did my time for, all because some guy in prison is trying to cut a deal. It’s not fair to be charged for the same crime twice and that’s not how our system is supposed to work.”
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(Via: Charleston County)
Specifically, federal prosecutors slapped an armed robbery rap on Taylor (above) even though he had previously pleaded guilty to the offense in question at the state level – and completed his probationary sentence on the charge.
“In order to squeeze information out of Mr. Taylor, the feds sought and received permission from Washington, D.C. to indict him in federal court for the same charges he’d already pleaded guilty to and served his sentence on in state court,” Taylor’s attorney, Mark Peper, told me at the time.
Peper noted Taylor was ‘in his third period class at Lincoln High School at the time he was alleged to have been with Drexel.” FBI investigators countered that Taylor had failed a polygraph examination related to his alleged involvement in the Drexel case.
I rebuked the government’s tactics …
“Taylor’s case appears to be yet another example of duplicative charges compromising the constitutional rights of an American citizen – something I thought was addressed by the Fifth Amendment,” I noted at the time. “If the federal government has evidence to support the allegations made against Taylor by its confidential informant, then it should charge him in connection with Drexel’s 2009 kidnapping and murder. Absent that, the feds should drop their robbery charge against him seeing as he has already pleaded guilty and served his punishment at the state level.”
A little over three years ago – in February of 2019 – Brown gave an exclusive interview to WHEC from his jail cell in McCormick, S.C. In that conversation, the informant reiterated his previous claims against Taylor but revised and extended his remarks to say that he saw Drexel at the home of one of his relatives in Jacksonboro, S.C. in late May of 2009.
“She was alive,” Brown told the station. “She was at his house.”
According to Brown, Drexel was shot and killed on his relative’s property by an individual he would identify only as “Nate.”
“Nate shot her with a double-barrel shotgun two times,” he alleged.
Given the many twists and turns this case has taken over the years, it will be interesting to see what sort of narrative investigators and prosecutors put forward to explain what they believe happened to Drexel – and what evidence they have collected in pursuit of that narrative.
Clearly, they appear very close to announcing a breakthrough in this high-profile disappearance …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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