Investigators look for evidence to break Brittanee Drexel case

Myrtle Beach, SC - MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Investigators in Myrtle Beach and Georgetown County say they have yet to collect enough evidence to proceed with charges in the disappearance of Brittanee Drexel, who went missing from Myrtle Beach nearly a year ago.

Sgt. Neil Johnson of the Georgetown County Sheriff's Office confirmed Monday investigators have pinpointed three or four people of interest in the disappearance of the 18-year-old New York girl. Johnson said all persons of interest have been previously questioned by authorities, but could not confirm an exact time frame in which they were questioned.

Two of the suspects, according to Johnson, have been subjected to lie detector tests. Johnson, however, has refrained from commenting on the results of those tests.

"At this time, there is no reason to believe these people [the persons of interest] know Drexel directly," Johnson said.

Myrtle Beach Police Det. Vincent Dorio said the recent advancements in the case have developed from a tip, and detectives are confident the information is leading them in the right direction to finding who might be responsible for her disappearance.

"The police seem really confident, so there's a lot going through my head right now," said Brittanee's mother, Dawn Drexel. "You go through a lot of emotions. Where is she? Is she OK? Is she not OK?"

"We're going to continue our efforts looking for Brittanee," said Monica Caison, with the CUE Center for Missing Persons. "There's just a lot of time and a lot of space to account for in her disappearance and a lot of places that she could be."

Myrtle Beach Police and working with the Georgetown County Sheriff's Office and the Charleston County Sheriff's Office on the case.

Based on information received by investigators, they "don't think she's still alive," Johnson commented.

Investigators are not releasing any information on the tips they received because they fear it might jeopardize the recently revitalized investigation.

Myrtle Beach Police say the Rochester, NY, teen disappeared after she was last seen in the area of 11th Avenue South and 20th Avenue South in Myrtle Beach. Drexel, who was 17 at the time of her disappearance, was in the area against the will of her mother.

Contact was lost between Drexel and her family in New York on April 25, 2009, the same night authorities say she disappeared. The last signal from her cell phone came the next night near the South Santee River.

Since she went missing, multiple search efforts for the teen have been executed from Horry County to Charleston County. While investigators have searched throughout three counties, each search effort has left police empty handed.

In a December 2009 attempt, search team consisting of approximately 70 people combed through an unidentified area of Georgetown County after a pair of knock-off Prada sunglasses were discovered near a body of water.

Those sunglasses, according to investigators, matched those worn by Drexel in a photo taken with friends in Myrtle Beach before her disappearance. Monica Caison with the CUE Center for Missing Persons says the sunglasses were located by a group of people collecting wood for a fire in December.

Members of the CUE Center, in coordination with investigators from the Georgetown County Sheriff's Office, Charleston County Sheriff's Office and the Myrtle Beach Police Department used search dogs, multiple boats, divers and a remote-controlled robotic camera to search the immediate area where the Radar sunglasses were found.

Despite using a variety of search tactics, Caison said investigators exhausted their search without any additional leads.

CrimeStoppers of the Lowcountry continues to offer a reward for any information on Drexel's whereabouts. Anyone with information regarding the disappearance of Drexel is urged to contact the agency at 1-888-CRIME-SC.

Copyright 2010 WMBF News. All rights reserved. WCSC contributed to this report.