Monday marks seven years since 17-year-old Brittanee Drexel disappeared from Myrtle Beach’s busy Ocean Boulevard area while visiting the Grand Strand on spring break, and vigils will be held in Myrtle Beach and her home state of New York.
“It’s just devastating for the family to have to go through this year after year after year,” Carol Wagner, Drexel’s grandmother, said as she stood at a memorial tree planted several years ago for Drexel at Grand Park at The Market Common.
“Even though it’s been seven years it feels really fresh,” she said as she helped Drexel’s grandfather Alan spread fresh mulch around the memorial tree, carefully dusting off painted stone mementos.
“She was our very first granddaughter. She was very, very close to me and my husband. We took her everywhere,” Carol Wagner said.
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Drexel disappeared on April 25, 2009, leaving the Blue Water Hotel on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach. She had come to the Grand Strand for spring break with friends – who her family said have never helped in her search – from her hometown in Rochester, N.Y., and she did so without the consent of her parents.
Myrtle Beach police continue to investigate leads on the case, but no arrests have been made.
“It’s still an active investigation. Officers and investigators are continuing to actively investigate leads,” said Lt. Joey Crosby with Myrtle Beach police.
Even though it’s been seven years it feels really fresh.
Carol Wagner, Brittanee Drexel’s grandmother
Vigils for the missing teen will soon be held in Myrtle Beach and Rochester to remember her and to remind the public she has still not been found.
“Brittanee has lost her grandmother. She has lost family members, and Brittanee has no clue. Her uncle that she lost was actually her godfather, and he went into a deep depression, and we lost him,” Carol Wagner said, reflecting on the time and family lost since Drexel’s disappearance.
Even though it’s been seven years, Drexel’s family continues to hold hope.
“We hope someday she’s gonna be found. … I’ve always thought she was out there, and she’s just untouchable. Hopefully, someday someone finds her,” Carol Wagner said.
Time doesn’t alleviate the sorrow the family feels, and they’ll always search for Drexel and remember her, they said. Birthday parties are held for Drexel every year, and the family serves her favorite ice cream cake, Carol Wagner said.
Carol Wagner and Drexel’s’s mother, Dawn Drexel, said they think Drexel was trafficked.
“We have investigated various theories and possibilities, and we will continue to investigate various theories and possibilities until this is resolved,” Crosby said when asked about the family’s trafficking theory.
We are actively working on this investigation. We’ve never stopped working on the investigation. It’s very much at the forefront of our minds. We are doing everything to resolve it the best we can.
Lt. Joey Crosby, Myrtle Beach Police Department
Dawn Drexel, who moved to Myrtle Beach from Rochester in late 2013 because she said she felt closer to her daughter here and wanted to help with the case, moved back to Rochester in the fall. She said she missed her 18-year-old daughter, Myrissa, and 13-year-old son, Camdyn. Myrissa lived with Dawn Drexel and finished school at Socastee High School, but moved back to New York when she graduated.
Dawn Drexel said she continues to keep a close eye on her Brittanee Drexel’s case and still has hope that she’ll be found, but said she feels disappointed with police’s handling of the case.
“I’ve always felt like they never really looked outside the box on Brittanee’s case,” she said.
Police and CUE Center for Missing Persons had searched areas in Georgetown and Charleston counties after learning Drexel’s cellphone gave off its last known signal on April 26, 2009, in Georgetown County.
In August 2011, police searched a room at the Sunset Lodge on U.S. 17 near the Georgetown County Airport where someone identified as a person of interest had stayed, but declined to comment on their findings in that room, and no one has been arrested in connection with the case.
“It’s been seven years and for there to be absolutely nothing is just unacceptable to me,” Dawn Drexel said.
In February, a new detective was assigned to the case after Det. Steven Clothier, who was the main detective on the case, was promoted to sergeant.
The case is constantly reviewed by police as tips come in weekly, according to Crosby.
“We are actively working on this investigation. We’ve never stopped working on the investigation. It’s very much at the forefront of our minds. We are doing everything to resolve it the best we can,” Crosby said.
On Sunday night, Drexel’s parents, siblings, and other family and friends will hold a vigil at Davis Park in Chili, New York where Brittanee Drexel used to play in soccer tournaments.
She’s still missing, and we do want to find her and bring her home regardless if it’s good or bad. And we just want some resolution. … I want someone to come forward and tell me what happened. It’s been long enough.
Dawn Drexel, Brittanee Drexel’s mother
“She’s still missing, and we do want to find her and bring her home regardless if it’s good or bad. And we just want some resolution. … I want someone to come forward and tell me what happened. It’s been long enough,” Dawn Drexel said.
Carol and Alan Wagner will remember Brittanee Drexel in Myrtle Beach with a vigil also hosted by CUE Center members at 7 p.m. Monday at “Britt’s tree” in Grand Park at The Market Common.
CUE Center, the nonprofit based in Wilmington, N.C., that organizes searches for the missing, gathered hundreds of volunteers and has conducted dozens of searches for Brittanee Drexel all over the Grand Strand, and nearby rugged swampland terrain in neighboring counties as well.
“We’re going to continue to search for her,” Monica Caison, CUE Director said.
CUE members look for Brittanee Drexel whenever a tip that prompts a search comes in, but Caison said they really need more information and more people to come forward with tips on the case.
“As the years go on, it gets more difficult,” she said.
Anyone with information can call the Myrtle Beach Police Department at 843-918-1382, or the CUE Center for Missing Persons 24 Hour Tip Line at 910-232-1687.
Vigil for Brittanee Drexel
Where | Brittanee’s Tree, on the south end of the pond at Grand Park at The Market Common
When | 7 p.m. Monday