The 17-year-old vanished without a trace while on spring break in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, back in 2009

By Chris Harris
Updated August 30, 2016 12:00 PM
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Seven years ago, 17-year-old Brittanee Drexel vanished without a trace while on spring break in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Since then, her family and friends have longed to learn the truth about what happened to the New York teen.

Earlier this month, at last, an FBI agent told a judge that authorities think Drexel was kidnapped, gang raped and then shot to death. Her remains were disposed of in an unthinkable manner, the agent said.

The break in the case was a “jailhouse confession,” he said.

Here are five things to know about the investigation into Drexel’s disappearance after the disturbing new allegations.

1. An Inmate Said He Saw Drexel Sexually Abused Soon Before Her Death

On Aug. 15, FBI agent Gerrick Munoz testified in court to what authorities believe happened to the blonde teenager, citing a recent “jailhouse confession” from an inmate and other witness statements, according to a court transcript obtained by PEOPLE.

That inmate, Taquan Brown, claims he was present for the gunshots that may have ended Drexel’s life, according to Munoz’s testimony – though Brown heard them and did not see them.

Investigators have previously said they believe Drexel was was kidnapped and held against her will for days after her disappearance.

Munoz testified in court that she was subject to “a human trafficking situation.”

Brown told investigators that in 2009, soon after Drexel’s disappearance, he saw Timothy Da’Shaun Taylor with other men allegedly “sexually abusing” her at a “stash house” in the area of McClellanville, South Carolina, Munoz testified.

Brown alleges that Drexel tried to flee her captors, but was immediately caught in the house and pistol-whipped, Munoz testified. Brown told Munoz he heard two shots and assumed she’d been killed, possibly by Taylor’s father who was also at the home.

“Then the girl’s body was wrapped up and taken away,” Munoz testified.

2. Drexel’s Remains Were Allegedly Thrown to Alligators

After the teen was shot, her captors allegedly took her body to one of the many alligator pits in the area, leaving it for the reptiles to devour, Munoz testified.

“Several witnesses have told us Miss Drexel’s body was placed in a pit, or gator pit, to have her body disposed of. Eaten by the gators,” Munoz testified.

Drexel’s remains have never been recovered, he said.

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3. Drexel Didn’t Tell Her Parents She Was in Myrtle Beach

Drexel was still a high school student when she left her hometown of Chili, New York, for Myrtle Beach. 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.”

4. No Charges for Taylor in Drexel’s Case

Munoz’s testimony in August came during a detention hearing for Timothy Taylor, to determine whether he should be free as he awaits trial on unconnected federal robbery charges in a 2011 incident.

But as Taylor’s defense attorney, David Aylor, noted in court: There is no hard evidence in the case and Taylor has not been charged in Drexel’s disappearance or death.

Timothy earlier received a suspended youth offender sentence and served two years’ probation as the getaway driver in the 2011 robbery of a McDonald’s in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, according to court records. He was at the fast food restaurant with two others, who held up the McDonald’s, according to records.

But in June, the federal government brought new charges against Taylor because, they said, his sentence was relatively light compared to other two robbers.

Aylor has called the prosecution’s argument a way to “squeeze” his client into cooperating with their case.

5. Drexel’s Father Believes Taylor Is Involved

On Monday, Drexel’s father, Chad Drexel, took to Facebook in reaction to the FBI testimony: Chad wrote that he believes Taylor, who was 16 in 2009 and is now 25, was involved with Brittanee’s disappearance and death.

“Based on evidence the FBI and the Myrtle Beach Police department has gathered, along with facts and specific information gathered from a team of private investigators that I hired to work with local law enforcement actively during the case (which will soon come to light) – we have no doubt Timothy Da’Shaun Taylor played a significant role in the abduction and murder of my daughter,” Chad wrote.

Taylor’s mother, Joan, has reportedly called the government’s accusations against her husband and son “craziness.” She testified in court in August that her son would never have been in Myrtle Beach at 16.

She called him a “great kid.”

Chad said he hopes other witnesses come forward. “Please keep our family and our Brittanee in your prayers!” he wrote.