MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – In spite of surveillance video, cell phone pings, and persons of interests compiled for one of the biggest missing persons cases in our area, the Brittanee Drexel case is still open, five years after she went missing. A vigil was held Friday night at The Market Common to remember the missing woman.
Hearing about other missing persons cases and human remains found in Horry County recently re-opened the wound of missing her own daughter for Dawn Drexel. She experienced the dread that maybe it could be Brittanee, and the hope that there was a new lead in the case. Drexel said standing in Myrtle Beach Friday by the tree planted in her daughter's honor, five years later, was bittersweet.
"Every time something happens in each of the cases…the family goes through an emotional rollercoaster," Drexel said. "And when you find out it's not them you think, phew, but still, it's always in the back of your mind."
The investigation into her daughter's disappearance continues, but Drexel says the task force heading the case is different now than on day one.
"Brittanee has new law enforcement on her task force, because some of them have retired, so they're going back over their case," Dawn added.
Those fresh eyes could find a clue overlooked in the past, during searches by boat, by foot, and by air. Surveillance cameras captured the last glimpse of Brittanee walking down Ocean Boulevard. Since then, there have been leads, persons of interest, cell phone traces, but no arrests.
In the days following Brittanee's disappearance, her mom and friends instantly knew something was wrong.
"Either someone has picked her up, or she's not alive," Dawn Drexel said in a 2009 interview. "In my heart of hearts, that's how I feel, because I know it's not like my daughter to do this."
While flying back and forth from New York to Myrtle Beach that first year after Brittanee's disappearance, Dawn was told to brace for bad news.
"According to the police department, they said, 'You have to get yourself set up for the worst,'" Dawn said in 2009.
Five years later, she still isn't giving up.
"It's hard for families to come to that realization, and it's even hard for me," she said. "I have to prepare myself for the worst, but how do you do that?"
On Friday night, Dawn and her family held a vigil at newly-planted tree in honor of Brittanee. The family hoped the vigil would bring continued awareness to Brittanee's case, and hopefully one day, resolution.