Police say they have known for some time that Brittanee Drexel, who went missing from Myrtle Beach in 2009, was no longer alive, but they waited until Tuesday to inform her family.
David Thomas, special agent in charge with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, revealed during a press conference Wednesday that the seven-year-old missing person’s case was now a murder investigation.
“We’ve known for a period of time,” said Lt. Joey Crosby of the Myrtle Beach Police Department. He declined to say just how long officers knew Drexel was dead.
Crosby said officers wanted to make sure the information they had was accurate before telling Drexel’s family.
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Police have refused to comment on how they know the information is accurate, declining to say whether or not they ever found Drexel’s remains.
But at the Wednesday press conference in McClellanville, in a region where investigators think Drexel was held against her will and killed, Drexel’s mother pleaded for the public’s help to bring her daughter’s body home.
There’s been seven years of investigation and seven years of tips and seven years of cooperation so to some degree this is an expected worst case scenario.
Bradley Conway, attorney for Dawn Drexel
“We need your help so we can find Brittanee’s remains and bring her home to lay her to rest and make sure that monsters like this can no longer victimize this community or kill anyone else’s child,” Dawn Drexel said at the conference.
The family of Brittanee Drexel maintained hope of her return for seven years, holding vigils in Myrtle Beach and their home state of New York waiting for someone with information on her whereabouts to come forward.
“The last few days have been real hard,” said Dawn Drexel’s attorney, Bradley Conway, after the press conference.
“There’s been seven years of investigation and seven years of tips and seven years of cooperation so to some degree this is an expected worst case scenario,” he said of the revelation that Brittanee Drexel had been killed.
Brittanee Drexel was 17 years old when her family said she came to Myrtle Beach without their knowledge on a spring break trip with a group of friends. She was last seen leaving the Blue Water Resort at 2001 S. Ocean Blvd. on April 25, 2009.
Thomas said that officials believe Brittanee Drexel traveled from Myrtle Beach to the McClellanville area where she was held against her will for several days before she was killed.
To entice more tipsters to come forward, the FBI is offering a $25,000 reward to anyone with information that leads to the arrest and conviction of Drexel’s killer, Thomas announced Wednesday.
Supervisory Special Agent Don Wood with the FBI field office in Columbia said that they have received tips since the conference, but he wouldn’t quantify how many. He did say that the information from the local community started coming in right after the press conference as people shared ideas with investigators in the parking lot of the Magistrate’s court where the conference was held.
We need your help so we can find Brittanee’s remains and bring her home to lay her to rest and make sure that monsters like this can no longer victimize this community or kill anyone else’s child.
Dawn Drexel, mother of Brittanee Drexel
Monica Caison, director of the CUE Center for Missing Persons, said that the tips they received since the press conference have been turned over to investigators.
The CUE conducted more than 75 searches – some of them 15 days long – for Brittanee Drexel after her disappearance. More than 2,000 trained searchers joined in the hunt for the missing teen in the first 15 months.
The daily searches turned into weekly pursuits in the late summer of 2009 and became monthly hunts in mid-January 2010. The CUE continues to receive tips on the case, but Caison said investigators asked them not to discuss the investigation.
Several billboards were set to go up soliciting the public’s help and announcing the $25,000 reward being offered this week. Police are asking anyone with information, even the slightest detail, to come forward.
“This is not isolated to people you don’t know. This can happen to anybody and the people that did this are still in the community,” Conway said. “They’re bad people and we need the help of people that have information.”
For anyone with information, who might be afraid to come forward, Conway said, you “will get the protection of the federal government and we need that help to solve the case… For the U.S. Attorney’s office and the FBI to come forward and get involved in this case at this point I think says something about the dedication of law enforcement locally, that they are willing to devote whatever resources they can and whatever resources they have to protecting and gaining information that leads to the conviction.”
Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI’s tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI or 1-800-225-5324.