Brittanee Drexel Murder Suspect Allegedly Confessed to Police, Led them to Her Skeletal Remains

Raymond Moody was identified as a person of interest in 2012

Brittanee Drexel and Raymond Moody
Brittanee Drexel and Raymond Moody. Photo: AP Photo/Myrtle Beach Police Department, Georgetown County Sheriff's Office

Authorities have revealed that the man accused of killing New York teen Brittanee Drexel allegedly confessed to the 2009 murder, and later led investigators to the South Carolina woods where she'd been buried.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson explained that, while Raymond Moody had been a long-time person of interest in the case dating back to 2012, it wasn't until recently that detectives developed the information they needed to make an arrest.

Richardson did not discuss that new information in detail, but said the investigation had ramped up in recent weeks.

"Everything was in high gear," Richardson told reporters. "We were able to make a lot of headway that we hadn't made before. ... We had quite a bit of evidence that turned us on Moody."

Drexel, 17, vanished back on April 25, 2009, while by herself in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where she'd gone for a spring break getaway with friends — unbeknownst to her parents. The high school student, authorities allege, was abducted from the Myrtle Beach strip, and held captive by Moody, 62.

Moody sexually assaulted Drexel before strangling the teen to death, according to investigators. Drexel's body was buried in a wooded area the following day.

On May 4, Moody was arrested on an obstruction charge. Then, on May 11, police recovered Drexel's skeletal remains, after Moody allegedly led them to the burial site.

Moody is now eligible for the death sentence, as he's facing single counts of murder, kidnapping and criminal sexual misconduct.

Richardson told reporters getting Moody to confess was the first hurdle for detectives. "You take a confession and it's great, but you also have to verify that confession," Richardson explained. "You have to make sure it's valid, especially in a case where you've had multiple people of interest."

During a court hearing in 2016, the name of a then-suspect in the murder was revealed — a person who is not Raymond Moody. Investigators received information from a prison informant who'd claimed a father and son had taken Drexel, and killed her when she tried to escape. The informant said Drexel's body had been tossed into an alligator pit. The arrest of Moody seems to undermine that account.

When Drexel left her hometown of Chili, N.Y., for Myrtle Beach, she had plans to visit relatives. But her parents had no idea she was traveling so far.

"I didn't know she was going," her mother, Dawn, previously told PEOPLE. "The day she left she was angry with me because she asked me if she could go and I told her no. I said, 'There's no adults going and I have no idea who these kids are and I don't feel comfortable with it.' "

"I told her I just felt something was going to happen to her," Dawn said. "I just felt it."

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Drexel was last seen on surveillance video leaving a beachfront hotel in Myrtle Beach.

According to the Democrat and Chronicle, Moody is a registered sex offender who spent 21 years in prison following a 1983 abduction and rape case in California involving a 9-year-old girl.

Moody has not yet entered pleas to the charges, and PEOPLE has been unable to identify his attorney.

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