The sad tale of Brittanee Drexel takes center stage on ABC News’ 20/20: The Darkest Night.
The teenager went missing during spring break in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Brittanee’s family and friends have searched for her for years, but her body was found in a wooded area, putting an end to the search. So, here’s what we know about how Brittanee’s family dealt with it all and where they might be today.
Who is Brittanee Drexel from?
Dawn Drexel and John Kahyaoglu, who was Turkish, had Brittanee. Dawn later said the following about her daughter: “She was always good looking and had nice teeth. She went to Abercrombie and Hollister to buy clothes. She was a size zero zero, then a zero. Her hair and makeup were both spot on. Before what happened, Dawn was married to Chad Drexel, who adopted Brittanee, but they were going through a divorce. Myrissa and Camdyn were her sisters and brother.
Brittanee, who was 17 at the time, was planning to go to Myrtle Beach with some friends in April 2009. However, her parents did not want her to go there because there would be no adults with them. But Brittanee lied to her parents and told them she was in Rochester with friends. Instead, she went to South Carolina. Dawn said her daughter was not well because things were not going well at home. She also said: “Her mind was not stable. We got divorced and I was about to lose my house. My ex-husband had already moved out. She wanted to feel safe and stable.”
But Brittanee suddenly disappeared from Myrtle Beach after just a few days. John Greico, her boyfriend who lived in Rochester, spoke to her until the night of April 25, 2009. When she stopped speaking to him, he called Dawn and they went to Myrtle Beach to look for her. Chad put up posters and hired a private investigator when he heard that Brittanee had disappeared. He also said: “I tried everything to find her. I’m the only father she’s ever known. “We were very close.”
The inquest revealed that Brittanee went missing after leaving a resort where a friend was staying. About 13 years later, her family found out that her body had been buried in a wooded area in Georgetown, South Carolina. Authorities believe a convicted sex offender named Raymond Moody raped and killed her around the time she went missing. They thought Brittanee got into his car alone, which resulted in her being taken away. Dawn said her daughter didn’t like walking, so it was possible she was trying to find a ride.
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Where is Brittanee Drexel’s family now?
Dawn moved to Myrtle Beach after Brittanee went missing and did whatever it took to find her daughter. There she worked at a pest control company and was a state director and volunteer for Community United Effort, an organization that helped find missing people. Dawn said of Brittanee when Raymond was arrested: “She had her whole life ahead of her. And this awful thing took it from her. I’m glad Moody is in prison so he can’t hurt anyone else’s kid.”
Since then, Dawn has been campaigning for missing people and using social media to publicize cases. She lives in Sorrento, Florida with David Conley. They have been together since September 2019. John, Brittanee’s birth father, spoke of getting back in touch with her in 2009 before she disappeared. As far as we know, he lives in Tampa, Florida. He is married and has children.
Chad, a former US Navy veteran, was also happy when Raymond got caught. He still lives in Rochester. He has been married to Kristy Drexel since September 2015 and they have one grandson. Camdyn graduated from high school in 2021. He is now a student at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia where he bowls for the team. In a recent interview, Myrissa said, “My mother always wanted to find my sister. But now we’re just waiting for her to get what she deserves.” She attended Monroe Community College in Rochester, where she apparently still resides.
Brittanee Drexel was born on October 7, 1991 in Rochester, New York. Her father, John Kahyaoglu, is from Turkey and her mother, Dawn, is from England. Teenagers, they weren’t married. Dawn married Chad Drexel shortly after Brittanee was born. It was at this time that Brittanee became his daughter. After Chad’s military service was over, the family moved to Chili, near Rochester.
Drexel was born with a condition referred to as persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous in her right eye. This condition led to blindness of the eye and required multiple surgeries. She wore contact lenses that gave her a unique look to hide the fact that her gaze was wandering.
Brittanee asked her mother in April 2009 if she could spend spring break with her boyfriend and some friends in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Her mother said no because she didn’t know the other teenagers and no adults went with them. She also had a feeling that something bad was about to happen. This led to them fighting for a few days. On April 22, Brittanee asked Dawn if she could go to a friend’s house for a day or two to calm down, and Dawn agreed. Brittanee and the other students went to South Carolina without telling her mother.
After she and her group arrived at the Bar Harbor Hotel in Myrtle Beach three days later, Brittanee called her mother once during the day to let her know she was at the beach. Her mother wasn’t worried because she thought Brittanee was talking about a beach on the shores of Lake Ontario. She figured it might be possible to go there because the temperature in Rochester that day hit an unusually high of 28C for the time of year.
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That night, around 8 p.m., Drexel left her friends on the beach at the Bar Harbor Hotel and walked 1.5 miles south on South Ocean Boulevard to visit a longtime friend who was staying at the Blue Water Resort. Blue Water Resort security cameras caught them entering. She wore a black and white tank top, flip flops and shorts. Her handbag was beige. Around 8:45 a.m., cameras caught them walking.
Drexel texted her boyfriend, John Grieco, who had to stay in the Rochester area for work.
They had texted back and forth, but around 9:15 a.m. their messages stopped. Grieco started calling her friends in Myrtle Beach to find out where she was and what had happened.
When that didn’t work, he called Brittanee’s mother, Dawn. Dawn didn’t know her daughter was in Myrtle Beach until she got a call from him. Dawn called Chad and then the Rochester Police Department hoping they could get in touch with their South Carolina counterparts. Brittanee’s phone was called and texted many times but she never answered.
The next morning, Myrtle Beach police began searching for Drexel. They found the footage from the Blue Water Resort’s security cameras and found the friends who had visited them. Peter Brozowitz, a 20-year-old nightclub promoter whom Brittanee knew from the Rochester area and who was also vacationing in Myrtle Beach, was the last person Drexel saw before she left. Maybe they met at a local nightclub the night before. After speaking to Brozowitz and the other men staying in his hotel room, police said that “no one was included or excluded” and that they had no persons of interest.
Police searched Drexel’s hotel room and found all of the clothing she had brought with her, but not her purse or cell phone. The phone’s network pings were traced along a path that ran 80–97 km (50–60 miles) south of Myrtle Beach along US Route 17 near the Georgetown-Charleston county line. In the early morning of April 26, the pings suddenly stopped. Then, for 11 days, locations near and around Myrtle Beach were searched where a body may have been dumped. In 2011, police searched a Georgetown County apartment but found nothing that helped them determine who was responsible.
Dawn and Brozowitz got together on the TV show Dr. Phil in multiple fights. During these fights, Brozowitz often complained about how bad it was for his reputation. Dawn drove to Myrtle Beach the day after her daughter’s disappearance. She eventually moved there permanently so she could be near where Brittanee was last seen and follow the progress of the investigation. In a 2014 newspaper article on the fifth anniversary of the case, she said she thought Brittanee went to Myrtle Beach against her orders because she was “promised something,” like a modeling job. Dawn thought her daughter was a victim of human trafficking, but the Myrtle Beach Police Department did not consider this likely because they said human trafficking is not common or non-existent in their area. The South Carolina Human Trafficking Task Force produced a 2019 report stating Horry County had the most reported human trafficking victims in the state.
Claims against Timothy Taylor
In June 2016, the FBI held a press conference where they said they thought Drexel was killed shortly after her disappearance. She was fetched from Myrtle Beach and killed somewhere near Georgetown where the cell phone pings stopped. The FBI offered a $25,000 reward for information that helped solve the case.
Two months later, the Charleston Post and Courier wrote about what happened at a bail hearing for Timothy Da’Shaun Taylor, who was then in state prison on a charge unrelated to the bail hearing. FBI agent Gerrick Munoz testified that a South Carolina inmate named Taquan Brown, who was serving a 25-year sentence for manslaughter, told them earlier this year that he went to a “hideout house” in 2009, right after Drexel went missing was McClellanville to give money to Taylor’s father.
Brown told Munoz that as he walked through the house he saw Taylor sexually abusing Drexel in front of other people. He went into the backyard and paid Shaun. As they talked, Drexel ran away from the house but was quickly caught. Brown said he saw Taylor whip Drexel with a pistol whip and then brought her back inside. Then he heard two shots, which he believed meant the young woman was dead. Brown says he saw someone take a wrapped body out of the house and place it in one of the many alligator ponds in the area.
Munoz said part of what Brown told investigators was supported by information from an unnamed informant who was in the Georgetown County Jail at the time he spoke to authorities. The second inmate said Taylor picked Drexel up in Myrtle Beach and took her to McClellanville, where he showed her off to his friends and tried to sell her to them on human trafficking charges. Brown said when the case got a lot of press, Taylor killed Drexel to avoid getting caught.
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