Officials say an upstate New York teen who vanished while on vacation in 2009 was likely held against her will for several days and then murdered.
Brittanee Drexel, 17, traveled with friends to South Carolina without her parents’ permission that April, and was last seen leaving a beachfront hotel in Myrtle Beach, officials said Wednesday at a news conference in McClellanville, South Carolina.
“Brittanee Drexel did leave the Myrtle Beach area,” said South Carolina FBI Special Agent in Charge David Thomas. “We believe she traveled to this area, around McClellanville and the North Charleston, South Georgetown area, and we believe she was killed after that.”
Thomas said Drexel likely left Myrtle Beach and spent several days in McClellanville, a small fishing town about 60 miles from the popular resort spot.
The agent added that officials have suspected for some time that Drexel was dead, but didn’t say so earlier “in the interest of trying to protect the parents and maintain hope that we could bring her back alive.”
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Thomas did not reveal how authorities determined that the teen was likely killed, but he called the evidence “exhaustive.” It is unknown whether there are one or multiple suspects involved.
Thomas did not say whether authorities have identified a person of interest, but he noted that officials have questioned many people in the investigation and will continue to do so.
“The investigators are certain that’s what happened,” he said. “Somebody does know information.”
Officials urged anyone with any information regarding the teen’s disappearance and death to come forward. A $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to a conviction.
Drexel’s mother, Dawn, spoke through tears at the conference, enlisting the help of the public in “bringing the people responsible for [Brittanee’s] death to justice.”
“After seven long years of waiting and praying for the return of my daughter, we know she isn’t coming home alive,” Dawn said. “Brittanee’s life was stolen from her in a brutal and senseless fashion.”
Drexel’s father, Chad, posted a statement from the family to Facebook, pleading with the public to help “bring our daughter’s remains back home to us.”
“These developments have in a small way given us some horrible closure This is ALL ABOUT JUSTICE FOR BRITTANEE.”