More than four months after her disappearance, Brittanee Drexel’s whereabouts remain a mystery.
Drexel, 17, of New York, disappeared April 25 after leaving the Blue Water Resort on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach.
Almost from the very beginning detectives theorized Drexel was abducted and feared she was in danger. During the first few weeks of her disappearance, police and volunteer searchers with the C.U.E. Center for Missing Persons initiated exhaustive searches.
The main search focused on the North Santee Community in Georgetown County, an area where Drexel’s cell phone last gave a signal the night she vanished.
“Law enforcement stepped right up and said we got something wrong here. A lot of times (missing persons) cases will be downplayed for a week or two until they realize they really have a problem. And then what happens is they realize it’s too late. You don’t capture the media and attention of the community,” CUE founder and director Monica Caison said.
Despite heavy media coverage, inevitably the weeks came and went. The organized searches stopped. Summer dragged on. Eventually Brittanee’s story faded from the headlines, and there was still no Brittanee.
But on Saturday there was a renewed effort to keep her story front and center among the Myrtle Beach community at a missing persons awareness tour, and the person sponsoring that effort knows the pain of a missing person.
Angie Gilchrist’s mother is Alice Donovan who was abducted, raped and killed in November 2002 by Brandon Bashum and Chadrick Fulks.
For years Donovan remained missing, despite the death sentence convictions of her murderers. In late 2008, Gilchrist ran into Monica Caison with the CUE Center, and together they decided it was time to find Alice. Previous searches by CUE, police and others yielded nothing.
“It is the most excruciating, tormenting thing to ever have to deal with. Your life stops,” Gilchrist described of her ordeal with her mother’s murder and subsequent disappearance.
Caison wrote to Fulks in prison, and to her amazement, he sent her a package stuffed with maps pointing to where Alice could be found.
Caison’s crew jumped into action and in January 2009 they found human bones that would later be positively identified as Donovan.
Far from a “success” story, it is a story that brings closure, something Brittanee Drexel’s mom is desperately searching for.
“I still have hope that she’s somewhere out there,” Dawn Drexel said Saturday at the Myrtle Beach stop of CUE’s “On The Road to Remember Tour.”
Dawn left Myrtle Beach at the end of June after spending two months in Myrtle Beach searching and raising money for her daughter’s cause.
Her frustration is growing.
“I just wish people would come (forward) and call one of the tip lines,” Drexel said.
Those tip lines, run by the Myrtle Beach Police Department and the CUE Center, have lit up in the months past, but no tip has generated the clue needed to crack the case.
Dawn, Monica and police are determined to keep the tips flowing, and one of the ways to do that, they say, is through events like the one held Saturday.
It was a small gathering of no more than a dozen folks — from lead detectives to Dawn to Monica to a few who didn’t even know the Drexels — but it was meaningful.
“The whole purpose of the tour is to get their information out, tell their stories, show their pictures and to visit their towns and rally their communities to remind them they’re still missing,” Caison explained.
As for the investigation by police, NewsChannel 15 learned that detectives have brought in an FBI agent to be “thoroughly briefed” on Brittanee’s case.
Detectives are also working with the CUE Center to organize a new search sometime later this Fall when the leaves fall and the terrain becomes easier to navigate.
What won’t become easier is Dawn Drexel’s anguish.
“Brittanee’s 18th birthday is coming up which is going to be very difficult in Ocotber,” Dawn said adding, “I just want to know something. I know my daughter didn’t just disappear off the face of the earth.”
Anonymous tips and information can be called in to the Myrtle Beach Police Department at 843-918-1382 or to the CUE Center at 910-343-1131.
Donations to the planned search effort can be made to CUE, a non-profit organization, by visiting their web site http://www.ncmissingpersons.org or by calling them.