Brittanee Drexel’s mother still searching for daughter, vigil planned five years after disappearance

Hope hasn’t wavered for Dawn Drexel, whose daughter Brittanee Drexel was last seen five years ago in Myrtle Beach.

“We never thought she’d be missing this long,” she said. “I still have hope that Brittanee is out there somewhere. I’ll never give up hope.”

Dawn Drexel is now a state director and board member for the CUE Center, the nonprofit based in Wilmington, N.C. that organizes searches for the missing, including several that were for Brittanee Drexel.

While working with CUE Center, Drexel said she is comforted by the proximity to the place where her daughter was last seen.

Brittanee Drexel was 17 when she 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 from her home in Rochester, N.Y., and without the consent of her parents.

Myrtle Beach police continue to investigate her disappearance, but no arrests have been made.

“The case is still open and active,” said Myrtle Beach police Capt. David Knipes. “Detectives continue to follow up on tips as they come in.”

He could not say how often tips have been coming in recently.

Drexel’s case has been profiled on dozens of local and national television shows, her information has been featured on billboards throughout the area and there are several websites dedicated to information about her.

The searches for her that the CUE Center has conducted number in the dozens, that involved hundreds of volunteers and law enforcement officials. Efforts continue to raise money to help with searches.

Soon after Brittanee Drexel was last seen in Myrtle Beach, police and CUE officials began searching 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. Police officials declined to comment on findings in that hotel room, and no new information has been released since.

Dawn Drexel moved to the Myrtle Beach area in late 2013, and said while she misses family and friends still living in Rochester, N.Y., “I feel closer to her here. Not only that, I’m able to keep up with law enforcement and keep up on Brittanee’s case.”

As a state director and board member for the CUE Center, Dawn Drexel said she helps in searches for other missing people, but primarily acts to support families with missing persons, including Heather Elvis who was last seen in Dec. 2013.

“I’m there to support and help the family,” she said. “I know what they’re going through and know that they have to keep their name and their face out there. I don’t think they want to be where I’m at, five years later and not knowing. But, I know how they feel and I’m there for them to talk to anytime.”

Five years time hasn’t taken away the pain of her daughter’s disappearance, she said.

“It’s the same as it was the day she left,” Dawn Drexel said of the sorrow she feels daily. “I’ll never stop searching for my daughter.”

But, she said support she’s received from the CUE Center and the support she now gives helps her maintain hope.

The family is holding a candlelight vigil Friday to mark five years since the teen was last seen.

Also, on May 3, supporters will meet at the Myrtle Beach Harley Davidson at 9 a.m. to start the Brittanee Drexel Fund Run, said Robin Holley, a family friend. The fundraiser will continue until the last ride to The Boathouse in Myrtle Beach, where festivities are planned.

At The Boathouse, there will be raffles and auctions with proceeds benefitting the CUE Center, Holley said.

Dawn Drexel said the money will help in future searches for Brittanee Drexel as well as other missing persons cases.

She said another search for her daughter also is being organized, but she did not know details on Thursday.

“CUE never charges for their services,” she said. “Everything is free but the CUE Center is based solely on donations, so the money we are raising is going to go to help quite a few searches. It’ll help a lot of families.”