top of page
  • Mark Rein

Premonition: Vanishing Brittanee Drexel

The demons whisper, "you know how the system works." And fear whispers back, "they know you. You're on their list. They can trace you. It's so much riskier now."

Intro

Welcome to Crime Raven; true crimes, real-life stories from law enforcement, and issues crime fighters face. This podcast highlights crimes researched by retired Detective Sergeant Mark Rein, using publicly available information, court records, and personal recollections. Content may be graphic, disturbing, or violent. Listener discretion is advised. Suspects are considered innocent until found guilty in a court of law.

Sponsor

One of the ways that you can support Crime Raven is to use our link to shop on Amazon. We know you already shop there. When you use our link, it doesn't cost you anything extra. It just tells Amazon to send us a few pennies of your purchase. Doesn't matter what you buy. Big or small, it all helps us cover our podcast costs. So next time you need to buy on Amazon, use our link. You can find our Amazon link at crimeraven.com/resources. Bookmark that Amazon link, so you don't lose it and use it every time you shop at Amazon.

Brittannee

2009.

Britt was a girl who wanted to get out of Rochester. She wanted to travel, to see the world. She loved her life. She loved her boyfriend, and she loved her mother, but they were suffocating her. There was this great big world out there, and she was gonna be a part of it while she was young.


She looked at her mother, divorced, single, several kids, which is fine, but not the life that Britt wanted. At least not the life she could envision for herself right now. She was 17 on the cusp - of being an official adult. So when her mother being the official bitch told her that she absolutely was not going to Myrtle Beach with friends, Britt was not gonna take no for an answer.


"But, why?" The list for Her Majesty's blessing was beyond reasonable. Of course, there were no adult chaperones going. Yes, they were her friends, even though Her Majesty had never heard of them. They were friends, not the best of friends, but very important friends, who had a car. Their parents were cool. They understood that girls needed some trust. Needed some independence. The coup de grace from dear old mom was the best. She had a feeling, a feeling. Britt knew that mom's feeling was that she didn't want her daughter to go off and abandon her. Her mom actually said she had a premonition that something bad was gonna happen to her if she went off and had fun with her friends. It was typical. Britt loved her mom, but she was clingy. Scared of everything. Britt wasn't like that at all. She wanted to, no, she would suck the life out of the world while she was young. There would be plenty of time to be old and scared and clingy later.


And Britt had proven herself, right? The trip to Myrtle Beach so far had been fun. A little crazy. Everyone was drunk as usual, and a girl had to watch out for the creeps, but mostly it was the biggest, best party ever. Britt did have moments where she felt guilty. Her boyfriend, of course, was jealous. He had to work, but even if he could take off, he wouldn't have wanted to come all this way. So she was gonna do what she could, regular text updates and calls every few hours. She told him nothing that might worry him. There had been some crazy shit going on down here, but he didn't have to know everything.


Then there was her mom. Absence and the heart and all that. Britt didn't like lying to her mother. And, in fact, she hadn't really lied. Mom gave her permission to stay over with one of her known and trusted friends. Okay. That was a lie. But Britt did tell mom that she was going to the beach. All Britt had done was allow mom comfort in a misconception. Ontario Beach was only 30 minutes from home. Britt rationalized that what mom didn't know wouldn't hurt her. It was only the weekend. She would be home soon, no harm, no foul. Besides, if her mom happened to find out the truth, she could always point back to the successful and safe trip as overwhelming proof that she was responsible and could be trusted to lead her own life.


Britt spent time moving between groups of friends. There were so many people that she kind of knew at Myrtle Beach. She wanted to see and be seen. She felt like one of the cool kids just being there. So when she found out that there were people [00:05:00] from Rochester at the other end of the strip, she just had to go down and say hello. She didn't care if it was a half-hour walk; she could meet more people on the way. Besides, it was good to get away from some of these overcrowded hotel rooms and take a walk.


A friend of a friend guy Britttanee knew was staying at a place called the Bluewater Resort. She was excited to just pop in and say hi. She only stayed a little while, but by the time she left their place, it was well past dark Britt walked along the road. As she passed each resort, she could hear the revelry on the beach side. Even though she was alone on the street, it was noisy, giving the illusion of one continuous party. It was a long walk, maybe three miles total. On the way there, boys had cat called from windows and balconies as she passed, but now on the way back, it was quieter with fewer people on sidewalks and in parking lots, but the street was wide and well lit, so Britt felt safe.


She just finished texting her boyfriend, John, that she was walking back to the hotel when a man suddenly approached—startling her. He said something Britt didn't hear. She tried to ignore him and move past. Did he say he was a cop? Then he was pulling her by the arm. She couldn't believe this guy. She tried to pull away, and he wrapped his arm around her neck! He threatened her.


Brittanee's brain was trying to catch up, but things kept moving. Now, she was being forced down into the floorboard of a car, her head pinned to the front seat. She had no idea what was happening. And then they were in the dark.

Taquan

2016.

The FBI Special Agents came into the small windowless room. The door gave an oversized metallic boom as it closed and locked behind them. The suited men introduced themselves to the man who remained seated in his orange scrubs, his left wrist shackled to the center of the table.


One agent faded back and began his vigil, leaning against the concrete block corner of the room while his partner sat across from the inmate. The agent asked," you have some information to share about a missing person?"

"Yeah."

Taking out a notebook. The agent asked, " Okay, what's your full name?"

"It's Taquan Brown."

"How do you spell that first name?"

"T- A - Q - U - A - N."

" Okay. Taquan, the message I got was that you wanted to give information about a missing girl."

" I know what happened to her."

"To who?"

"That Drexel girl in Myrtle Beach."

"Okay. What happened?" The agent asked.

Taquan shrugged. "I wanna say I wanna do the right thing, but I'm here for a while. I'm looking to get some time off. I'll help if you help."

The agent, leaning forward, looked earnest said, "Well, Taquan, we aren't in the position to just cut time off for information. If you give us what we need? Real, workable, verifiable information. Maybe we can work something out. Something that'll be beneficial to you and maybe get you back to your life sooner."

" Okay. I know what happened to the girl."

"For the record, we're talking about Brittney Drexel?"[00:08:00]

"Yeah. She'd been missing like since 2009," Taquan said frustrated with the pace.

"Okay. Tell us the story."

"I used to hang out at stash house my boy had out in McClellanville, this was 2009, but we've been going there for a while."

The agent asked, "what's stash house mean to you? Like, where you get your re-ups or what?"

" Yeah, we pick up our piece of package there when it was in. We also, we just go there to chill."

"Okay."

Taquan continued, "so I go by there on Monday, April 27th, and there's this white chick there pulling a train like eight or 10 guys."

"They're raping her?"

"That guy that brought her there. He's like pimping her out."

"You're saying that girl was Brittney Drexel?"

Yeah. It was definitely her back then. I didn't know who she was. That she was a missing girl or anything."

"Was she tied down?"

Taquan shook his head. "No, they probably beat her if she tried to get away. Her face was fucked up. She had a black eye, like her gave her that pimp hand."

"Who are we talking about? Who's the guy who brought her?"

"I don't know his name, but I seen him before."

The agent leaned forward, looking into Taquan's eyes, " You are saying that on April 27th, the day after the girl disappeared, you saw eight to 10 guys raping her at the stash house in McClellanville. You don't know the name of the guy, but he was a regular there?"

"Yeah. Well, not regular like me, but I seen him around. I know he a pimp."

"Did you have sex with the girl?"

"Me? Nah, man. I don't only part of that. When I see that was going down, I went outside. I only stayed a little while."

"You didn't see the girl again? What time was this?"

"In the afternoon? Say like around six."

"Okay, that evening. Did you see the girl again?"

"Well, when I was out front talking, I heard a tussle inside the girl come running out, all naked. Guys chased her on back. I heard shots. So I thought they killed her. I just left. I didn't want no part of that."

"So they killed her?"

"Yeah. But not then. I seen that girl, like, two other times that month. First time I was surprised she was still alive. It was the same thing. The dude still pimping her out. She looked all worn out. Like she wasn't gonna run anywhere anymore. Then I heard what happened."

"And what was that?"

"She did try and get away one last time. Was about the time all that stuff came out on the news, you know, all who she was and where that guy took her from. Well, I think that dude was getting scared. Y'all gonna find her. So when she tried to run her way again, he kilt her with that gauge."

"A shotgun?"

" Yeah."

"What did they do with her body?"

" They cut it up and fed it to the Gators. They all over there. And the pits by the river."

The agent lean his chair back and blew out a breath. "Okay. That's a lot. Before we go over that again, we're gonna do a lot of background on this. If I show you photos, you can pick out everyone involved?"

"I don't know them."

"yeah, but if we bring you good pictures of everyone linked to that place, you can tell us who did that. Right?"

" Yeah."


"Brittney Drexel did leave the Myrtle Beach area," said South Carolina FBI Senior Agent in Charge David Thomas at a news conference in McClellanville, South Carolina. "We believe she traveled to this area, around McClellanville and the north Charleston, south Georgetown area. And we believe she was killed after that."


The purpose of the press conference was to explain that while law enforcement was not able to release all the details, the FBI had uncovered credible information that led them to conclude that Britttanee Drexel had been dead for some time. They also were offering a $25,000 reward for information that would lead to justice for those responsible for Brittanee's disappearance. In federal court on August 15, 2016, Special Agent Garrett Munoz testified that Taquan Brown had given information that a man identified as Timothy Deshaun Taylor was responsible for kidnapping Brittanee. Brown further stated that he saw Taylor raping the girl and pimping her out to several other men at a secluded trailer they used as a drug house. Agent Munoz stated that Brown saw Brittanee being pistol-whipped and heard gunshots, and it was understood that Brittanee's remains were then fed the alligators in the area. The FBI's press conference and publication of Agent Munoz' sworn testimony in court were, to many observers, the unfortunate conclusion to the mystery of what happened to Britttanee Drexel.

Ray

2009.

Ray is simply driving around. Colleges. Schools. Bus stops. The beach. With each turn of corner the feelings of anticipation commingled with dread are almost overwhelming. He feels young again, just like in the early eighties, but the fear comes down from having endured the aftermath of those same feelings. 20 years of his life wiped away. "But that was last time," the demons whisper, "you know how the system works." And fear whispers back, "they know you. You're on their list. They can trace you. It's so much riskier now."

Yet, there he is, like a hellish merry-go-round ride. Colleges. Schools. Bus stops. The beach. As he drives, Ray rolls, justification, and rationalization around in his brain. It's why he needs to do what he's about to do and how he can avoid punishment. Last time, his merciful nature, playing catch and release, bit him in the ass. Those little girls didn't keep their secret, and the cops found him.


From there, Ray had been a good boy in prison. He tried to blend in. He avoided beatings, giving the bigger guys what they wanted when they wanted it. But the most important of all, he said the things that were necessary to convince a psychiatrist, to write down the golden phrase, "there's no longer a danger."


It took Ray 21 years to get out of there, but he had cut his time in half by playing the long game. In the interim, he'd had plenty of time to break down his mistakes, promising himself he'd never commit another crime. And if he did, he damn sure wouldn't get caught.

When Ray said goodbye to Soledad Prison, he knew they would find no peace in California. So he returned home to South Carolina. His prison boyfriend followed him across the country. Together, they made a go at normal life. Ray became a skilled craftsman, making custom handmade furniture.


Eventually, the stable life lost its luster. The old impulses, the old demons, crawled their way back into his life. It started with scoring a little dope, and it was all downhill from there. It didn't take long for Ray's lover to bail. And then the demons all came crowding back.


Ray's new death spiral was a matter of record. On a bender, the cops caught him showing off his packer to some little girls. Well, if they hadn't seen one already, it was high time. He hadn't even touched them. No harm, no foul. Right? But the cops didn't see it that way. He took a new conviction, and they discovered the old California shit. The registry. Now people around him knew. How could he be expected to stay the straight and narrow with all that pressure and stress? So when the old urge took him, he started driving. He started looking. Ray told himself that all he was ever gonna do is now is look. Ray knew better than anybody else how full of shit he was.


It's Saturday night. The sun just set, and Myrtle beach is packed with young revelers. What Ray is looking for is very specific. She has to be alone and not only alone; there can be no one close enough to interfere or give a description. He circles and sees small groups moving between hotels or to and from the beach. Parking lots between the buildings are well-lit but overgrown with palm hedges. They seem like an opportunity, as do the long stretches of dark yet to be developed property.


Ray circles, monitoring a couple of possibles, but they aren't in the avenue or in a secluded enough area of the parking lot for long enough to engage. Then he sees a young-looking girl, blonde, petite, walking alone, headed north on the sidewalk in front of the Bluewater Resort. He pulls over and watches her from across the street. She continues walking past the next property. He feels the old adrenaline surge. Tamping it down, he makes a U-turn and drives by slowly, but not slowly enough to draw her attention. Up close, Ray sees that she's exactly what he's looking for.


Ray continues north on the street, looking for an appropriate ambush spot. The first few hotels and parking lots are too bright with too many people around. As he continues on, Ray knows that the odds she'll walk that far before turning off are high. Then he sees a dark vacant lot. The hotel next to it is large. The Palm hedge is overgrown, creating a secluded nook immediately adjacent to the sidewalk. Ray pulls in. He parks on the periphery where the parking area meets an undeveloped overgrown lot. He walks away from the overhead lights and feels good that, aside from the sounds of revelry on the beach, the area is quiet. Ray stays in the gloomy edges of two overhead lights as he creeps up to the sidewalk. Yeah, the girl's still there, walking towards him. He steps back out of her view and assesses. His car's close, close enough to drag her. If she screams, is there anyone around to hear? No. The Palm hedge will block the sound and the hotel view.


Ray gambles there's no one watching from the dark stretch of the vacant lot. It's a risk, but at this point, Ray knows there's no turning back. The demons are loose. and they're about to feed.


The girl walks bristly along the sidewalk. Ray moves outta the shadows on an intercept course. He furtively scans up and down Ocean Boulevard. No cars. No people. The girl seems to notice him only at the last second and then tries to walk past without eye contact.

Ray forces the issue, " hey, I'm looking for my dog."

The girl slows and says, "what?"

Ray grabs her wrist. "Police. I need you to step over here."

She shakes her head and says, "no."

Ray's grip moves up to her forearm, and she tries to pull away. He says, "don't resist."

The girl looks confused and says, "no" again.


But Ray pulls her away from the light of the sidewalk. He wraps his arm around her neck and she tries to scream and pull away. He says in her ear, "don't, or I'll have to hurt you." The girl stiffens, but Ray never stops moving, pulling her to the car, then pushing her inside. He threatens her again. " Do exactly as I tell you, or I'll hurt your bad. Get down in the front seat." The girl does as he says, curling into the passenger footwell. She is wide-eyed with shock. "Now put your face down on the seat. Good. Don't move. I'm not gonna hurt you. If you do what I say. This will be over soon."


Ray drives the car, turning left onto South Ocean Boulevard. As he accelerates, he steers with his left hand while he grips the girl's hair, holding her down with the right. They quickly leave the lights of the city behind. As the coastal Carolina darkness envelopes them, Ray can feel is captive shutter as she cries. It makes him happy.

Investigation

The investigation started over the weekend. By the time a detective was assigned and the complainant, Britttanee Drexel's mother, sat down for a complete interview. It was the beginning of the next week. By then, Britttanee had been unaccounted for, for almost two days. One of the indicators that this was a real problem, not just an irresponsible girl who had neglected to check in, was the concern of the family. The divorced mother and father were both already in Myrtle Beach, handing out flyers on the strip, a 13-hour drive from their homes. Parents, family members of a teenager who went missing on purpose, or those who are habitual runaways didn't react with such decisiveness. The investigator knew that most parents were attuned to their kids, well enough to only be as concerned as they needed to be. An immediate 13-hour drive said a lot about how out of character this girl's missing status was.


Dawn Drexel told investigators that her daughter Britttanee was 17 and had just finished her junior year. A few days prior, Britt had asked for permission to travel to Myrtle Beach with some girls that Dawn didn't know. Dawn said she told Britttanee that she couldn't go for several reasons, but mostly she didn't know the girls or their parents. Dawn knew that her daughter was disappointed and angry, so as a consolation, she allowed her to stay the weekend in town with a friend whom Dawn did know.


When Brittanee left home, as far as Dawn knew, she was still in the Rochester area. Britt even called her periodically, talking about what she and her friend were up to. Everything seemed fine until around 11:00 PM on Saturday night, Dawn was contacted by her daughter's 19-year-old boyfriend, John Greico. John was still in Rochester, but he told her that Britt had traveled to Myrtle Beach and that night had suddenly stopped responding to Greico's texts and phone calls. He also told Dawn that none of their friends were with Britt or knew where she might be. Dawn called a friend who was a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He made the three-hour drive south and contacted the people that Britttanee was staying with at the Bar Harbor Motel. Some of Britt’s belongings were there, but the girl was still missing. He called the Myrtle Beach Police to coordinate between the police and the family.


Investigators asked Dawn an open-ended question about their daughter. Knowing everything she did about Britttanee, what did she think happened? Dawn told them that she had thought about that since her daughter went missing. She said she doesn't think Britttanee would've gone so far if someone hadn't lured her there. Maybe the promise of a job; maybe a modeling photo shoot. Dawn suspected somebody took her against her will, speculating that she had fallen prey to human traffickers.


Investigators interviewed the primary players. John Greco, the boyfriend, told them he had been in regular contact with Britttanee for the two days that she'd been on the trip. Everything seemed fine. Saturday night, she walked down the strip to see some friends, but sometime around 9:00 PM had just stopped responding. Greico had tried to call, and as time passed, he had threatened to call Britt's mom if she didn't call him back. When there was no response, Greico followed through on that threat and alerted Dawn Drexel.


The friends that Britttanee had been staying with seemed to be a dead end. They cooperated with Dawn Drexel's Marine friend, that showed up in the early hours of Sunday morning. What they were claiming was consistent with what John Greico was saying. Brittanee left the Bar Harbor Motel and walked down the strip to visit some friends. She never returned, which because of the party atmosphere, the friends barely noticed before the Marine had arrived. Brittanee’s friends had left their contact information with patrol officers working the missing person report and then had driven back to Rochester later Sunday morning.


Police investigated the group that Britttanee visited at the Bluewater Resort. The man Britttanee was acquainted with was Peter Brazowitz, an aspiring club promoter. He and the friends that he was staying with gave consistent accounts. They said Britttanee dropped by a little before 9:00 PM that Saturday night. She stayed only a few minutes, doing nothing more than saying hello. After she left the group, didn't see her again. They left the hotel at 1:00 AM, just a few hours after Brittanee's visit, because they wanted to start the long drive back to Rochester. Based on the statements and corroborating evidence, the investigators cleared Brazowitz and his companions of suspicion early in the investigation. But their actions would be scrutinized and doubted by the public. Many of whom believed their early departure from Myrtle Beach might be fallout from whatever happened to Brittanee.


As word of the missing girl spread police began scrutinizing surveillance video from properties on the strip. They also said they were interested in video and photographs from key areas that might include images of Brittanee. What the investigators found on the surveillance feeds was what they expected. Brittanee was captured coming and going from the Bluewater Resort at the expected times. She was also captured walking on other recordings, but they discovered no incident that precipitated her disappearance. Likewise, Brittanee's last days were partially documented in photos and videos that were submitted by other vacationers, but no suspicious persons were identified from those. And no sinister subjects could be seen lurking in the periphery of the images.


As the leads from people who had direct contact with Brittanee petered out, the cell phone records provided new avenues. Brittanee's cell phone tracked as expected following her walk south and then back north on South Ocean Boulevard that fateful Saturday evening. Then at around 9:00 PM, the phone started moving south out of the city. The final ping was just after midnight on the morning of Sunday, the 26th. At that time, Brittanee's phone was near the South Santee River, somewhere between McClellanville and Georgetown, an hour south of Myrtle Beach.


Pursuant to the cell phone lead, police mounted a ground search in the area of the phone pings. The search proved to be extremely challenging because the area is covered with dense brush. The area is actually defined by two rivers, the North and South Santee, that run parallel to one another. The land is wet and marshy in a broad swath, along both sides, and between the waterways. The search turned up nothing that moved the case forward.

As publicity about Britttanee Drexel's disappearance increased, the investigation became inundated with tips from the public. Many of these had no clear relationship with the disappearance, containing everything from suspicious people and their cars to known sex offenders to psychic readings. The law enforcement agencies in the area formed a task force to sort through the incoming tips, but without compelling information, the process was slow.


Brittanee's family and friends were invited and appeared on several local and national television programs. These spread the word about the circumstances of the case but also increase the volume of tips coming into the investigative task force. Most of these tips were mere conjecture of armchair sleuths.


There wasn't much information coming out of the police, and with that increased television coverage, people began to fill in the information vacuum with their own theories. Some of them questioned the motives of the people around Britttanee during that fateful weekend.

Dawn Drexel, made several statements indicating that she thought her daughter had been abducted by human traffickers who intended to use her in the commercial sex trade. Speculation like this caused problems in the lives of the friends. The idea being that someone must have set Britttanee up. As a result of these accusations, most of the friends withdrew from the public eye, and their reticence caused further suspicion that they were hiding something.


It came out that Brittanee had taken her parents' divorce hard and was taking antidepressants. This information started new waves of speculation and tips from the public. Responding to those, Brittanee's mother and boyfriend were adamant that the disappearance was definitely foul play and that Brittanee definitely hadn't run away or hurt herself.


By 2011, the tips were depleted. The task force had several persons of interest, but they'd all been interviewed or contacted and refused an interview. And there was nothing to push the investigation to the point of clearance. In a statement to local news, Myrtle Beach Detective Vincent Dorio said, "in the beginning, it was a missing person's case, but everything we've looked at, I'm confident, foul play was involved. And this is probably going to be a homicide investigation." In another interview, he said, "It's just a matter of time now before everything gets put together and we can say, yes, here's a solid arrest. We could use that one person or that one piece of evidence that comes forward and ties everything together to make a solid arrest, which leads to a solid conviction."


Some of the persons of interest came to the public's awareness as investigators increased the pressure on those subjects. One of them was named Raymond Moody. Moody had first been put on the investigator's list when an officer stopped him driving a car near Myrtle Beach the day after Britttanee disappeared. He was a registered sex offender from out of state. When Moody eventually came up on the list of subjects for secondary follow-up, detectives found that he had been charged with indecent exposure in 2008 and failure to register in February 2009. The indecent exposure is an ominous sign for a 48-year-old convicted sex offender.


It turns out that Moody lived south of Myrtle Beach, about eight miles from where Brittanee's cell phone sent its last pings. Police served a search warrant for Moody's residence, a room at a boarding house called the Sunset Lodge. The search turned up nothing useful. Upon interview, Moody denied any involvement with Britttanee Drexel, and with no evidence as leverage, nothing more could be done. However, Moody was not crossed off the list.


Publicity about Moody's possible involvement made it all the way across the country to California, where it was noticed by one of his 1983 victims. Carrie Harding was eight years old when she met Moody. She called Myrtle Beach detectives because she wanted them to know he wasn't just another name on their sex offender registry. The following is an excerpt from Carrie Harding's statement published in 2022 in the New York Post, " Moody approached Carrie as she was walking towards a school playground in Vallejo, California. He told her there was construction in the parking lot, and he needed her to walk a different route. Carrie ignored the man because he was a stranger. But when she saw that there was indeed construction, she turned around. When Carrie passed Moody again, he grabbed her and shoved her into his car.


She said, 'everything happened in the blink of an eye. He had me in his car and had driven away within seconds.' The terrified girl asked where she was being taken. 'You're too little to be out here by yourself. I'm taking you to the police station,' was his answer, but instead, he drove her to a deserted site about three miles from her home. 'Has anyone told you, you have a beautiful body?' he asked, adding, 'let's get in the back. We're gonna screw.'

Carrie said, 'I was eight. I didn't even know what he meant. So at that point, I didn't know what was about to happen until it happened. And it was horrific. Eventually, he agreed to let me go to the bathroom,' she said, 'so he opened the back door and told me to squat right next to the car while he gripped onto my hair. When I squatted down, a pool of blood, came pouring out of me and just got bigger and bigger. When he saw it, he briefly let go of my hair, and I took off running.'


A few months later, Harding suddenly remembered a distinctive sticker that had been on the rear bumper of her captor's vehicle. 'That green sticker was required on any car that needed to get onto the Naval base in town,' Harding said, ' the minute I remembered that sticker, the police found him and arrested him the next day.' Moody was convicted of kidnapping and raping seven girls under the age of 14, including Harding, and was sentenced to 42 years behind bars. He was released after serving only half that term." Although Harding's story did nothing to further Drexel's investigation. It did ensure that Moody's name would always be near the top of the suspect list.


Moody was a person of interest in another missing person in the area. Crystal Souls, a 28-year-old mother disappeared on January of 24th, 2005, from Andrew, South Carolina. Crystal called her house and told someone that she was about to walk the short distance home. Soul's never arrived, and no trace of her has ever been found. Moody's name came up in that case because of his proximity to Soul's last known location, but no more definite link has ever been made.


On June 8th, 2016, the FBI held a press conference that announced that after a lengthy investigation and exhaustive examination of evidence, investigators were confident that they had enough information to say they knew the fate of Brittanee Drexel. The story that had been given to them and that they believed is that Britttanee was abducted and held against her will for a time in the McClean, South Carolina area.


They also said that she was murdered after a period of captivity. Although they were not at the point of charging the suspects responsible, their intent was to put out what information they had and call for additional witnesses to come forward. To that end, the FBI offered a $25,000 reward for information that led to whoever was responsible being brought to justice.


The cryptic yet seemingly conclusive press conference stood on its own until testimony leaked from a federal court in August 2016. Timothy Deshaun Taylor, who was in custody for robbery charges unrelated to Britttanee Drexel, had a bail review. At that hearing, FBI Agent Garrick Munoz testified that the FBI believed, based on an informant statement, and supporting evidence, that Taylor was responsible for Brittanee Drexel's abduction.

The agent went further, saying that Taylor brought her to a drug stash house, sexually assaulted the girl, pimped her out, murdered her, and fed her body to alligators. Searches for those remains had been without success. The FBI's information release, followed by the glimpse into the case provided with the court testimony, was not followed up with criminal charges.


Still, most people who heard the news believed that something similar to the account was what befell the missing girl. It was eerily similar to the fate that Dawn Drexel had imagined for her daughter. The media and public placed intense scrutiny on Taylor and the members of his family, who adamantly denied any involvement.


With a lack of closure, some of the old task force detectives believed the FBI's trail was a red herring. They continued to look for leads and strategize. Periodically, there was activity. In March 2017 there was a three-day search of a wooded lot in the Georgetown area. The investigators were mum on what, if anything, was found.


On May 4th, 2022, Moody was quietly arrested on obstruction of justice charges, given a hundred thousand dollars bail, and remanded at the Georgetown county jail. A successful interview resulted in Moody finally giving information. Although Moody denied kidnapping Britttanee, he admitted to strangling her on a boat ramp on the Santee River on Saturday night, April 25th, 2009, and then burying her body in the area of Georgetown early Sunday morning.


In the period between May 4th, 2022, and May 11th, Moody led investigators to the site where he claimed to have buried Brittanee. On May 11th, authorities released information to the public that they had located human remains in a wooded area near Georgetown. The location was later determined to be two and a half miles from where Moody was living in 2009. A team of investigators that included the Georgetown county coroner, a forensic anthropologist, and a forensic odontologist excavated the site found remains, and identified those as the body of Britttanee Drexel. On May 16, 2022, authorities publicly confirmed that the remains they found belong to Brittanee and that Moody has been charged with murder, kidnapping, and first-degree sexual assault. Jimmy Richardson, the 15th Circuit Solicitor, confirmed that Moody is the sole suspect in the crime. He remains in custody, awaiting trial.

Discussion

Marcy: Bringing Mark in here to start the discussion; we have covered other cases that started as missing persons. Can you talk about those calls and how they evolve?

Mark: I've worked a lot of missing persons cases, some of which people had been missing for a while, and some were, when I was on patrol, freshly missing. Honestly, most of our missing people aren't actually missing; they’re kids that are overdue. And the way we go about these things is you look at, is the kid at home? Especially with smaller kids, we start from the house and work outwards. We usually demand that an officer go through with the parent and check the house to make sure the kid's not there. And it's amazing how many times kids are actually hiding in the house from their parents.

Then we do interviews, whether they're kids or adults. Can we figure out the reason the person's missing? Is there a logical reason the person's missing that may lead us to finding them? Where was the last place they were seen? Were they at school and they didn't arrive home or were they at home and they just kind of disappeared? Where should we start looking? Then we start talking to friends, associates, school friends, school teachers, associates at work, conducting basically the first contact, a basic interview to try and figure out how serious is this. What's the likelihood we're gonna be able to find this person? Are they just out, walking around the woods, or what?

If they have cell phones, we look at, are we at the point where we need to start emergency tracking of a cell phone; try and get vehicle locations, satellite vehicle location if that's possible. The other thing is we often check if somebody has access to texts and social media, we'll check that depending on how long the missing person goes on.

In a lengthy missing person situation, we'll start a door-to-door sweep to see if we can find out if anybody saw them in the area; if anybody knows, who knows they could be a neighbor's house, so we'll talk to neighbors and so forth.

If you listened to the Mindy Schloss episode where she's the victim, the whole case turned on the door to door, canvas and talking to the neighbors there. So that's, that can be very important, but that doesn't usually happen right away. As these things drag on and spiral out, we start at the home, and we work out. So is there video surveillance? Is there video surveillance in the home if they live in an apartment? Is there stuff in the apartment building or on adjacent properties? We're gonna do a canvas that includes significant properties at choke points, major intersections where the person missing may have walked through or driven through and see if we get surveillance camera footage from those locations. This takes time. As somebody who's done these canvases, you're gonna take notes as you do, or don't contact people at each place so you can double back to so make sure you're not missing anything. That's very important. I was involved in a lengthy search that took weeks to find people that turned out to be deceased. And there was a miscommunication about somebody having searched a particular area, and weeks were lost.

When you start going to organized area searches, most of my experience coordinating overland searches had to do with public property, large parks, undeveloped land. In densely populated areas, we either asked the owner to visually inspect their property or if it was important enough case or important enough location, we'd ask to go with them and inspect their property.

One case comes to mind; we’re looking for a weapon that was involved in a shooting near a major street. I figured if the guy who did the shooting threw it over a fence, this could be pretty close to the back fence of a property. I went back there with the owner and did indeed find the weapon on the grass in his backyard on his back fence.

This case in Myrtle Beach started in fairly densely packed private property. What we would do in that case would be to alert the businesses in the area to see if they would look through their property and see if there's anything amiss. And in critical property, say like in a situation where we knew exactly the few blocks that she had disappeared in, we'd send officers in with management or some of their custodial personnel to see if we could look in their mechanical rooms and stuff and make sure the missing person wasn't in there for some reason.

But the most important need for an overland search is that you have a good place to start. For the last few years of my career, I was given a crime suppression unit and was assigned seven or eight investigators. I made it a piece of our jobs to function as investigative support. I would help major crimes and when they had a big case. And so, as part of that, I pulled our civilian search team outta public affairs and made it part of my unit. I figured if we were gonna do some searches with homicide, we better have control over deploying the civilian searchers. So a short time later, we had a very public abduction of a young lady by a guy who turned out to be a serial killer.

The crime was all over the news. Private citizens were scouring areas all over town with news cameras in tow. I didn't call it my search team. A few days after the crime, we had a monthly search team meeting. When I reached the briefing room, it's packed. Everybody came out, and usually they're happy to see me, but these people were pissed. They're like, what's the point of having a search team if we're not gonna search? I told them we had investigative information that the victim in this case that they're so worked up about had been taken immediately out of the area. And I promised them that I'm up to speed on that specific case. It was the biggest case we had going on at the time. I could eat up every minute of every evening of their time for a month, and we wouldn't complete even a fraction of the city parks alone. And that's the point. Searches aren't gonna be effective unless you have a reason to search a specific area.

In this case, a massive search of the resorts of Myrtle Beach wouldn't have been productive. They knew that. They waited until the phone pings and then searched where they knew there was a possibility of some progress.

Marcy: However, police departments are often criticized for their response to missing person calls.

Mark: Yeah. I talked about this in a little bit in the Mindy Schloss case. Basically, most missing person reports are not worst-case scenarios, and the subject turns up. In cases where that doesn't happen, police are scrutinized for what actions were taken. If there's something that is immediately like, oh boy, this is bad. there's probably not gonna be an investigative delay.

I had a case when I was a fairly new officer on patrol where I responded in office building where a woman's coworkers basically convinced me that she was missing because of her husband. I don't wanna go in too much detail because I'm gonna cover this as a case later. But after hearing what they had to say to me, I knew it was, gonna be a problem. I called the homicide unit, talked to the supervisor there, and I got permission to do a basic public announcement that she was missing, and then met with our public affairs person in the field, so we could put out the word that she's missing. And then I went and talked to the detectives who were already starting the process of the investigation. This is an example of a best-case scenario for police response to a missing adult.

In this case, the Myrtle Beach Police seemed to be right on it right away. When Brittanee was first reporting missing on April 26th, it was unclear what they had. Asked for comment shortly after they started the case, Myrtle Beach Police Captain David Knipes said, " it could go either way. There's no evidence of foul play, but it could range the whole gamut from I'm a runaway to I've been abducted and killed." But the best gauge of the Myrtle Beach Police response can be seen in the comments from Dawnn Drexel, who told the Sun News, she felt the police had been quote "on the ball with the search. They had police looking at Ocean Boulevard right away", she said, "in Brittanee's case, they had quite a few people working on it". She added, "we talked to the police every day." I can tell you as a guy that's coordinated police searches when the mom of a missing child has anything to say about the cops, other than they better get moving, you know that at least they're communicating well.

Brittanee was entered into the National Crime Information Center as missing at 6:30 AM on the morning after she went missing roughly eight hours after the incident. Which, when you consider the circumstances, is pretty good.

Marcy: The public was very interested and very frustrated by the information that wasn't being released. What generally happens when there is an information vacuum on a big case?

Mark: What happened in, in this Myrtle Beach case is typical in what I saw in our cases. First of all, if nothing happens immediately on a case, the assertions begin that police aren't taking it seriously.

You also have victim blaming. One of the cases I just mentioned the one of the women who was abducted. She had a relative who was affiliated with a motorcycle gang. There was public discourse. That was, she was taken for drug debt, which is utter nonsense. People actually discouraged donation of money to that family because they said, you're just giving money to the drug dealers. It was heartless bullshit.

In Brittanee's case, there was the same thing. She must have gotten mixed up in a drug deal; gone wrong is what people said. In that information vacuum, the friends around her were put through the wringer. People speculated that the friends from New York somehow set Britttanee up or sold their friend to human traffickers. The fact that the people at the Bluewater Resort left at one in the morning was cited as evidence that they wanted to get away from the scene of the crime.

Swirling accusations, in this case, show how the public can hinder an investigation. Solid, knowledgeable tips are welcome. Speculation is not. It's a double-edged sword. Police often rely on help from the public to solve cases. If you look at letters to the editor or opinion pages in newspapers, it's a fair representation of what you get in tips. I always joked that 99% of tips should be responded to with a sarcastic, "oh, we've been thinking about this case for the last two months, and we never thought of something so simple. Thanks." Those comments are often frustratingly simple answers to very complicated police issues. Clearly, a lot of people think they would make a great chief of police.

Marcy: Dawn Drexel thought from the beginning that her daughter was taken against her will, possibly by human traffickers. The Myrtle Beach Police Department stepped in it when they denied human trafficking was a problem in their area. What do you think?

Mark: So the Myrtle Beach Police were right and wrong. Part of the reason they were criticized for the blanket statement, 'we don't have a problem with human trafficking here' is because a timely study was released that says the opposite. Having worked in the field, I can tell you human trafficking is a big problem in places like Myrtle Beach for the same reason it's a problem in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, even in Anchorage: a large transient population of vacationers who have a lot of disposable cash on hand. So they have human trafficking, but the police are right in that Brittanee wouldn't be a typical victim for that. I've mentioned this before in other episodes, the danger from human trafficking isn't generally, at least in this country, from being snatched off the street and put to work as a call girl. The girls who do fall prey have no options, are generally seduced into the life and are compliant because they think no one is available to help them.

That isn't the situation for a girl like Brittanee. From the perspective of a guy who had pimp her out, the heat on her is huge. If she's spotted, she's rescued, and the abductor is immediately a fugitive. But for the parents of a missing girl, ironically and horribly, this is the scenario they hope for that or the chained in the cabin or the basement somewhere. It's simply because there's hope they'll get 'em back alive.

Luckily, the chance of abduction is very small, but unfortunately, the chance of a girl being kept alive after abduction is a tiny fraction of that group.

Marcy: What do you think happened with the jailhouse informant?