ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Brittanee Drexel was a 17-year-old Gates-Chili High School student on spring break with friends when she went missing on April 25, 2009. It took more than 13 years for police to arrest the man they believe to be responsible, charging him with murder, kidnapping, and criminal sexual conduct.
On April 22, Brittanee Drexel went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with a group of friends. Her parents told People Magazine she left without their permission
On April 25, according to the same report, Drexel left her friends at the Bar Harbor Hotel to meet a friend at the Blue Water Resort, about 1.5 miles away.
Drexel was last seen on hotel surveillance video shortly before 9:00 p.m. on April 25, 2009, leaving the Blue Water Resort. She texted her boyfriend, saying she was walking back to the Bar Harbor Hotel.
The initial search began on April 26. That day, Raymond Moody, a registered sex offender, was issued a traffic ticket in Surfside Beach, about 8 miles from Myrtle Beach. Moody would later claim he was out of town at this time. The ticket would be used to prove otherwise.
On April 29, multiple people reported seeing a person matching Brittanee Drexel’s description on a bus in Myrtle Beach. That person left the bus on Ocean Boulevard. Police investigated the claims.
That same day, News 8 learned Peter Brozowitz, one of Drexel’s friends who was in Myrtle Beach at the time of her disappearance, retained an attorney. The attorney said he did so due to “repetitive questioning” from police. For years, Brozowitz would be considered the last person to see Drexel alive.
Also that day, Drexel’s family announces they deposited money in her ATM account, hoping to see some activity on her card. No activity was detected, but police said they traced her cell phone to an area south of Georgetown County.
On May 4, police released the hotel surveillance video of Drexel, along with traffic camera footage from the main drag.
On May 11, Drexel’s parents and Peter Brozowitz appeared on the Dr. Phil show, bringing the case into the national spotlight.
On June 6, Drexel’s story was featured on America’s Most Wanted.
On October 10, Chad Drexel received a call from Brittanee’s cell phone, only to find out the cell company had given her number to a new customer.
On November 12, Drexel’s story was on the cover of People Magazine.
In December, campers found sunglasses investigators believed could have been linked to the case. Myrtle Beach Police announced they had three, possibly four persons of interest.
In June, Drexel’s classmates remembered her at their graduation ceremony. Gates-Chili High School gave her an honorary diploma, and invited her family to the graduation. School officials said it was the first honorary diploma issued in Gates-Chili High School history.
In June, a 37-year-old man named Timothy Shaun Taylor was arrested and accused of trying to kidnap a 20-year-old woman in Myrtle Beach. That woman claimed two men jumped out of a van and tried to abduct her. She said she elbowed one of the men in the face and escaped.
Police initially believed the case might be connected to Drexel’s disappearance. Those charges were dropped five months later, with police saying the cases were not related.
In August, the City of Myrtle Beach announced 20 new surveillance cameras would be installed in a variety of locations throughout the vacation destination. Officials say the boost in security was prompted by Drexel’s disappearance.
In October, Drexel’s story was featured on the Investigation Discovery show, Disappeared.
In November, based on an anonymous tip, police searched an area near Charleston, South Carolina. Drexel’s mother, Dawn Pleckan, said it was the 47th search conducted since her daughter disappeared.
In January, Drexel’s case was one of many to be reexamined by investigators with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The Cue Center for Missing Persons organized a “large scale” search later that month.
In April, on the weekend before the 2-year anniversary of Drexel’s disappearance, family, police, and volunteers in South Carolina conducted another search. They did not find new evidence.
On August 1, police searched an apartment in connection to the case. The apartment belonged to Raymond Moody at the time of Drexel’s disappearance. Moody no longer lived there at the time of the search.
Moody would be charged for Drexel’s kidnapping and murder in 2022.
In November, a search team scoured an island off the coast of McClellanville in South Carolina based on a tip from a fisherman. No new evidence was found.
In February, police identified convicted child rapist Raymond Moody as the primary person of interest in Drexel’s disappearance. A statement from police said there was no new information to share, and that Moody was “one of many people that we have investigated over the course of this investigation.”
Drexel’s mother told News 8 on February 16 that if police had new information about her daughter’s disappearance, they would have reached out to her. She said they had not done so regarding the Moody report.
In April, days after the 3-year anniversary of Drexel’s disappearance, her friends and family gathered in Myrtle Beach to plant a tree in her honor. A stone marker at the base of that tree describes its purpose.
In September, a week before what would have been Drexel’s 21st birthday, her mother sent a letter to Myrtle Beach media outlets questioning whether the friends Drexel was with the day she disappeared had told police everything they knew. She claimed Drexel’s friends never looked for her, and refused to report her missing.
“The past three years have been a heartwrenching experience,” Pleckan wrote, “and I know someone has knowledge of what happened to my daughter.”
She said she hoped the letter would lead to new information.
On Brittanee’s birthday, October 7, a candlelight vigil was held at her memorial tree.
In December, the Cue Center for Missing Persons released an age-progressed artist sketch of Brittanee Drexel. At the same time, Drexel’s family revealed Brittanee had an eye condition which may have made her more recognizable if she were to be seen.
In March, Drexel’s family attended the 9th annual National Missing Person’s Conference. Those at the conference attended classes to learn how to keep their sons’ and daughters’ stories alive.
In April, a vigil was held at Ontario Beach Park to mark the four-year anniversary of Drexel’s disappearance.
In December, skeletal remains were found in a remote area near where Drexel was last seen.
In January, a coroner in South Carolina announced the bones found the previous month were from a male body.
In May, police in South Carolina searched a new area in connection to the Drexel case. Investigators said new technology made additional cell phone data available, leading to the expanded search area. Nothing new was found.
In November, a special petition was started with the aim of getting the United States Justice Department to review the case. The petition surpassed its goal
In June, the FBI announced investigators believed Brittanee Drexel had been kidnapped, taken to the McClellanville area, held against her will for days, and ultimately killed. They also announced a $25,000 reward for information regarding the crime.
It was the first time authorities publicly said they thought Drexel was murdered.
In August, reporting from the Charleston Post and Courier named 26-year-old Timothy Da’Shaun Taylor as the man who might have thrown her body into an alligator pit. Brittanee Drexel’s father, Chad, said Taylor was the son of the Timothy Shaun Taylor who was arrested in 2010.
According to the Post and Courier’s reporting, the FBI said an informant told them Timothy D. Taylor held, raped, and killed Brittanee at her home before disposing of her body in an alligator-infested swamp.
Taylor was arrested weeks later on an unrelated robbery charge. His attorneys claimed he was immediately interrogated about the Drexel case, for which he was never charged.
In August, Taylor released a statement maintaining his innocence. He claimed the FBI was given false information by an inmate desperate to cut a deal. Taylor’s mother also denied the accusations.
Chad Drexel issued a statement saying he believed the allegations to be true.
In September, Chad Drexel created a petition asking a grand jury to weigh and either validate or discredit the supposed eyewitness claims. The petition called for Taylor and his father to be indicted for Brittanee Drexel’s murder if the grand jury deemed the claims to be truthful.
“We have no doubt Timothy Da’Shaun Taylor played a significant role in the abduction and murder of my daughter,” Drexel said.
In November, Drexel’s mother, Dawn Pleckan, started a foundation in her daughter’s honor. Brittanee’s Little Angels was created with the goal of helping families of missing children and human trafficking victims. The website created appears to be defunct.
In January, one of Taylor’s attorneys, Mark Peper, was arrested after police said he was stopped on a highway while driving under the influence and possessing cocaine.
In March, investigators searched a property outside Georgetown, South Carolina. The FBI called the search a matter of “investigative activity” linked to the Drexel disappearance. They did not provide any information about the evidence or tip which led them to search the area.
Investigators did say they made “some progress,” but did not elaborate.
In November, Timothy D. Taylor was arrested when police said he violated the terms of bail after a robbery arrest by crossing county lines. Police would release more information about this arrest in 2018, claiming this was when Taylor failed a polygraph test when asked about Drexel’s disappearance.
In March, federal prosecutors announced Taylor failed a polygraph test administered in 2017 regarding the Drexel case. According to the American Psychological Association, “Most psychologists and other scientists agree that there is little basis for the validity of polygraph tests.”
“Although the idea of a lie detector may be comforting,” it says, the most practical advice is to remain skeptical about any conclusion wrung from a polygraph.
Prosecutors urged a judge to sentence Taylor to up to 20 years in prison, under a plea deal in a robbery case. The defense team claimed federal prosecutors were only pursuing a lengthy prison sentence because of a lack of closure in the Drexel case.
In April, on the 9-year anniversary of Drexel’s disappearance, her family held a vigil in Myrtle Beach.
In February, an inmate who sent the initial letter claiming he saw Taylor and others rape and kill Drexel filed a lawsuit. Tequan Brown claimed the release of that information “inflames the individuals responsible for Drexel’s murder hatred for the plaintiff.” Brown claimed there was a $15,000 bounty on his head.
On the 10-year anniversary of Drexel’s disappearance, Pleckan called for anyone with information to contact investigators. “I believe that someone knows what happened to my daughter,” she said. “They just don’t want to come forward because they’re afraid.”
Around the same time, the FBI said it believed Drexel was taken 60 miles outside Myrtle Beach, held against her will for days, and killed. Once again investigators said they believed her body was dumped in an alligator pit. They said their source was an informant.
Investigators also said in April that they continued to have a person of interest in the case, but no arrests.
In December, Taylor was released from prison and given three years probation.
On May 4, Raymond Moody was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice.
On May 11, remains were found in a wooded area in Georgetown County, South Carolina.
In a Facebook post on May 13, Chad Drexel said an arrest had been made in the Brittanee Drexel case. He deleted that post a short time later, replacing it with a post that said “amazing progress,” had been made. He deleted that post as well.
On May 16, Georgetown County Sheriff Carter Weaver announced the remains found days earlier were identified through dental records as those of Brittanee Drexel. Moody was charged with murder, kidnapping, and criminal sexual conduct for her death and disappearance.
When asked about the supposed eyewitness statement formerly linking Timothy Taylor to the case, the FBI issued a statement saying: “Throughout the investigation, law enforcement followed multiple leads to wherever they led us based on the information we had at the time. We have an obligation to follow leads to their conclusion. The person we believe is responsible for Brittanee’s murder has been charged.”
On May 31, Georgetown County Coroner Chase Ridgeway announced Brittanee Drexel’s cause of death was “undetermined” due to the condition of the skeletal remains.