Mark Peper, the defense attorney for Timothy Da’Shaun Taylor, said his client was in school on the two dates a jailhouse informant told authorities he saw Taylor sexually assaulting a missing teen, who was reportedly killed.
Brittanee Drexel was 17-years-old when police say she was abducted from Myrtle Beach a day after she came for a spring break trip without her parents’ permission in April 2009. FBI agents say they suspect the Rochester, N.Y., teen was held against her will for several days before she was killed in the McClellanville area.
The last signal from Drexel’s cellphone pinged just north of the town in an area known as South Santee, where Taylor lives.
Taylor was arrested in July on federal charges stemming from an old state conviction of a 2011 armed robbery. An FBI agent admitted at a bond hearing for Taylor last month they sought the charges, in part, because they suspect Taylor was involved in the Drexel case.
Jailhouse informants told police Drexel was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, trafficked, killed and dumped in an alligator pit in McClellanville. One of the informants, now serving more than 25 years for manslaughter, told authorities he saw Taylor and others sexually assaulting Drexel at a “stash house.” The informant said Drexel tried to escape while he was there, but she was dragged back into the house and killed.
Peper says Taylor, who was also 17-years-old at the time, would have been in school on the days and times the informant said he saw him.
“It’s very, very clear that the reason they instituted this prosecution was to squeeze out of my client any information he has on Drexel,” Peper said; information, he adds, his client doesn’t have.
Taylor is charged with interfering with commerce by threat or violence and committing a violent crime with a firearm for an armed robbery of a McDonald’s in Mount Pleasant.
The store’s manager was shot during the robbery, but survived. Taylor was the getaway driver, according to court records.
He was arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to probation. His accomplices, Joseph B. Whiteside Jr. and Deron Moultrie, who were inside the McDonald’s during the robbery, were sentenced to 25 years and 10 months, respectively.
No federal charges have been brought against Whiteside or Moultrie in the case.
But Peper says that’s because the two weren’t mentioned in the inmate’s account to police of what happened to Drexel.
He says Taylor feels blindsided by the charges brought five years after the robbery and seven years after Drexel disappeared. Police have had no interaction with Taylor on the Drexel case since they questioned him in 2009, according to Peper.
“He doesn’t know anything,” Peper said. “He wasn’t there.”
But now Taylor faces at least 10 years in prison if he is convicted of the federal charges.
“How can you be punished for not knowing anything?” Peper asked.
A pre-trial conference hearing for Taylor’s case was continued Wednesday morning inside a U.S. District Courtroom in Charleston.
Peper told the judge he was asking for the continuance to have “more time to go over plea negotiations” with his client. Federal prosecutor Jim May did not object.