Details limited on Drexel investigation to protect case

Myrtle Beach, SC - MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Investigators on the Brittanee Drexel case are defending their actions after the girl's mother went on national television, critical of recent developments in the investigation.

Dawn Drexel made an appearance on CNN earlier this week saying investigators should not have said the Rochester, NY teen was likely dead, and that Myrtle Beach investigators are not giving her enough information about the case.

Capt. David Knipes, spokesman for the Myrtle Beach Police Department, says he feels area investigators have given the Drexel family as much pertinent information as possible without jeopardizing the case.

Dawn Drexel also commented on CNN that she is upset investigators said her daughter may not be alive. Georgetown County Lt. Neil Johnson said Thursday he understands that she's a mother in distress about her daughter's year-long disappearance.

However, based on information gathered throughout the lengthy investigation, Johnson says investigators are treating the missing teen's case as a homicide case.

"Based off of what we have right now, we have no other information that's leading us any other direction," explained Johnson. "She's right, we have not found Brittanee. We have not made an arrest. We are making that statement based off the information that we have."

Both the Myrtle Beach Police and the Georgetown County Sheriff's Office have full-time investigators working only on the Brittanee Drexel case, according to authorities, and Johnson said that law enforcement officials are hoping the details they have released will lead to a break in the case.

"If that one person that associates theirself, whether it be a family member, it be a friend," said Johnson, "they need to stop and put theirselves in Brittanee's family's shoes, and kind of turn the scenario around on theirselves and think about you know, if this was them, and come forward."

Johnson said that since news broke Friday on the persons of interest, investigators have been flooded with calls.

Johnson confirmed Monday investigators have pinpointed three or four people of interest in the case of Brittanee Drexel, who was 17 at the time of her disappearance. 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 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.

Drexel disappeared after she was last seen in the area of 11th Avenue South and 20th Avenue South in Myrtle Beach. Drexel 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.

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.

Family and friends will gather April 24th for a candlelight vigil. At 6:00 p.m. that Saturday, they will gather for a walk from the Bar Harbor Hotel to the Bluewater Hotel. Then at 7:30 p.m. they will hold a vigil at the Hurl Rock Park.

The public is invited to attend.

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