The Unsolved Disappearance Of Brittanee Drexel

Brittanee Drexel went on the trip despite her parents’ objections, and three days later she vanished outside her friend’s hotel.

Brittanee Drexel, 17, went missing in 2009, leaving her friends, family, and investigators stunned. The Rochester native had secretly left New York in April of that year for a spring break trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where she had vanished.

Drexel, a cheerful teen who excelled at soccer, was said to have become increasingly depressed in the months leading up to her disappearance. Drexel was eager to get out of the house because his parents were divorcing.

Though her parents allowed her to spend spring break with a friend at Lake Ontario, she instead drove to Myrtle Beach, where she vanished outside of her friend’s hotel on April 25.

Drexel’s case then took an even more disturbing turn in 2016, when an inmate claimed she was abducted and brutally murdered that night — and investigators now consider her case a harrowing homicide.

Brittanee Drexel’s Disappearance

Brittanee Marie Drexel, who was born on October 7, 1991, in Rochester, New York, had a happy childhood. Despite the fact that her biological father abandoned the family when she was a child, her mother Dawn married a man named Chad Drexel, who adopted and raised her as his own.

Despite the fact that Drexel was born with a rare eye disorder that required several surgeries and left her blind in one eye, she wore a contact lens to keep her right pupil from wandering and aspired to be a cosmetologist and model as a result. She also improved her soccer skills.

“She was full of life,” her mother said. “Soccer was Brittanee’s heart; she was small, but boy, could she run fast, at lightning speed right down the field.”

However, the 17-year-old junior at Gates Chili High School was struggling that year. Drexel’s enthusiasm waned after her parents divorced in 2008, and her grades began to fall. This was exacerbated when her parents filed for divorce in 2009.

Drexel suggested she spend Spring Break in Myrtle Beach with her friends and boyfriend John Grieco, which her mother quickly rejected. Drexel feigned acceptance and asked if she could spend her vacation at a friend’s house on Lake Ontario instead. On April 22, she drove away with a green light.

On April 25, 2009, surveillance footage captured Drexel entering the BlueWater Resort.

On April 23, Drexel arrived in Myrtle Beach and called her mother from the Bar Harbor Hotel, where she and her friends were staying. The next night, she went clubbing with another Rochester friend, Peter Brozowitz.

Dawn Drexel had no idea her daughter’s boyfriend had not come with her and was spending his vacation at home in Monroe County.

Drexel walked a mile to the BlueWater Resort, where Brozowitz was staying, around 8:00 p.m. on the night of the 25th. She’d done this walk at least once before on the trip and had been in constant contact with her boyfriend back home all day.

While security cameras at BlueWater Resort showed Drexel arriving safely, she left the property 10 minutes later. Brozowitz had been the last to see her alive.

After leaving Brozowitz’s hotel and still responding to her boyfriend’s text messages, all communications from Drexel’s phone abruptly ceased at 9:15 p.m.

The Extensive Investigations Begin

Grieco texted Drexel that if she didn’t respond, he would tell her mother about the Myrtle Beach trip. He did exactly that before asking a friend, a United States Marine stationed in LeJeune, North Carolina, to drive south and file a missing person’s report with the Myrtle Beach Police Department. The date had changed to April 26.

“I think someone saw her walking and offered her a ride, and she got in the wrong car,” Grieco later speculated.

Following Drexel’s disappearance, some of her friends stayed behind for an extra day to assist in her search before returning to Rochester. Local police searched Myrtle Beach and followed up on leads that she was seen at a bus stop and a convenience store, but they came up empty-handed.

Investigators now believe Drexel was murdered soon after he was kidnapped.

Despite the fact that her last phone signal came from Georgetown County, about 35 miles south, Drexel’s trail went cold for seven years after dozens of fruitless investigations.

While the FBI joined the hunt and offered a $25,000 reward for information, the first real lead came in June 2016, when an inmate at South Carolina’s McCormick Correctional Institution made a startling confession.

Taquan Brown claimed to have witnessed Drexel being gang-raped on April 27, 2009, at an abandoned “stash house” he frequented in McClellanville. “She had a black eye,” Brown explained. “There were about eight to twelve guys in there having sex with her.”

He claimed he was delivering money to a man named Shaun Taylor when he saw Drexel and then heard her murder. “As I see it, the guy in the front yard says, ‘hold on a second,’ he needs to go inside… and after he goes inside, I hear…” There were two gunshots. At the moment, I’m trying to get out of there because I believe someone has been shot.”

He went on to say that Drexel’s body was most likely left in an alligator pit.

Promising Killers Meet Dead Ends

Investigators can partially corroborate this abduction and homicide story. “Through the course of this investigation, we’ve discovered that Brittanee Drexel did leave the Myrtle Beach area,” said David Thomas, special agent in charge of the FBI in South Carolina. “We believe she went to the area around McClellanville and was killed after that.”

Timothy Da’Shaun Taylor (left) and Taquan Brown.

However, aside from Brown’s confession, investigators have little evidence to make any arrests.

Investigators corroborated Brown’s description of the stash house while he was serving a 25-year sentence for unrelated manslaughter. It was 50 miles south of Myrtle Beach, close to where Drexel’s phone had last rung. Taylor’s 16-year-old son Timothy Da’Shaun, according to Brown, was present that day.

Investigators believe Da’Shaun lured her to McClellanville to be trafficked, but Drexel’s disappearance received far too much media attention to keep her alive. He was convicted of robbery in 2011, and when asked about Drexel in March 2018, he failed a polygraph test — but he has never been charged with her murder.

Authorities filed federal charges against him in the hopes of eliciting a confession, but it never came. Da’Shaun, on the other hand, allegedly placed a $15,000 bounty on Brown’s head in exchange for cooperating with police. Da’Shaun was sentenced to 319 days in prison for the 2011 robbery in June 2019.

Brittanee Drexel’s disappearance is still being investigated as a homicide, and the FBI is still offering a reward for any information leading to the arrest of her killers.

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