Investigative activity related to the Brittanee Drexel case resumed Sunday morning in the woods off of Foxfire Court in Georgetown. Operations were completed by 2 p.m., but investigators were mum on what they found.
“The last three days we have progressed the investigation,” Don Woods, a supervisory agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said at the scene. “We’re not going to discuss what we found or what we did not find. I’m confident in telling you the investigation was advanced. We have progressed.”
Officers cleared nearly an acre of woodlands littered with debris and signs of a former dumping ground at the end of Foxfire Court in the three-day search.
Authorities, including the FBI and local police, have been tight-lipped about what they were doing and what they appeared to be looking for in the area with K-9s and an excavation unit that were brought in Saturday.
“We’re confident we’re getting closer to resolving this matter” and bringing those accountable to justice, Woods said, citing the many agencies that have helped in the investigation.
Drexel was 17 when her family said she came to Myrtle Beach without their knowledge on a spring break trip with a group of friends. She was last seen leaving the Blue Water Resort at 2001 S. Ocean Blvd. on April 25, 2009. She has been missing ever since.
An FBI agent at a press conference in McClellanville last year admitted investigators believe Drexel was held for several days against her will and killed in the McClellanville area, south of Georgetown.
The search was being conducted in a wooded area off Foxfire Court in Georgetown County, just off Mercer Avenue near Highway 521. Agents could be seen through the woods using shovels on Saturday. Later in the afternoon heavy earth-moving machinery was used at the scene, but there were no details available as to what prompted the new search and why they were looking in that area.
The FBI, however, noted the operation was successful in moving the case forward.
“We’ve made strides in bringing those responsible for Brittanee’s death and disappearance to justice so we feel good about that,” Woods said on Sunday. “With that said, there’s still more work to do based upon the leads that we’ve uncovered these last three days.”
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 Timothy Da’Shaun 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.
Although federal agents pressed to bring charges against Taylor for an old 2011 robbery, they have not had enough to charge Taylor with any crime in Drexel’s case. Taylor’s federal case has been continued until May.
Woods would not comment Sunday on whether Taylor remains a suspect in Drexel’s death and disappearance.
Four men from Columbia were arrested by U.S. Marshals in Georgetown County the day the search began on Friday, but Woods would not comment on whether or not those arrests had anything to do with Drexel’s case.
The last signal from Drexel’s cellphone pinged just north of McClellanville in an area known as South Santee.
“The disappearance of Brittanee Drexel has been an ongoing and active investigation even through today,” Woods said. “This case was never closed. It was never declared a cold case.”
It was on the efforts of dogged investigators that they ended up in McClellanville last summer and in Georgetown on a hunt for new clues last week, he said.
“During the last three days, we have developed leads, we have developed information,” Woods said. He added that investigators still suspect people in McClellanville and around the area they searched in Georgetown “know something that can … help us out and resolve this matter.”
The FBI is offering a $25,000 reward to information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for Drexel’s disappearance.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324).
Check back for more on this story as new information develops.