The remains of a 17-year-old upstate New York girl who vanished 13 years ago while celebrating spring break in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, have been found and a local man has been arrested on murder, kidnapping and rape charges.
Brittanee Drexel’s body was recovered Wednesday in Georgetown County, roughly 35 miles from where she was last seen alive at the oceanside resort in April 2009, authorities said. Dental records and DNA evidence confirmed the identification, county Sheriff Carter Weaver said at a news conference Monday.
Raymond Douglas Moody, 62, of Georgetown, who had an “extensive sex offender criminal history” at the time of Brittanee’s disappearance, was charged with murder, kidnapping and criminal sexual conduct in the first degree. He strangled Brittanee, according to an arrest warrant cited by ABC 4 News, and buried the body a day later, Weaver said.
Brittanee’s mother, Dawn Drexel, called the developments “bittersweet” after holding out hope for years that her daughter may still be alive.
“This is truly a mother’s worst nightmare,” said Drexel, who still lives in Rochester, where Brittanee grew up. “I am mourning my beautiful daughter, Brittanee, as I have been for 13 years, but today it’s bittersweet. Today marks the beginning of a new chapter. The search for Brittanee is now a pursuit of Brittanee’s justice.”
Investigators didn’t say how they located Brittanee’s body. Moody did not have a lawyer listed for him in jailhouse records.
Police named Moody a person of interest in the investigation in 2011. At the time of Brittanee’s disappearance, he was living in a motel less than three miles from where her remains were found.
The motel room where Moody had been staying was searched by law enforcement back then, but authorities said they didn’t find enough evidence to name him a suspect, local station ABC 4 News reported.
The yearslong search for Brittanee had taken wild twists and turns, including claims that the teen was held in a “stash house” before being murdered and dumped in an alligator pit.
Brittanee’s mother said in 2016 that an FBI agent told her a jailhouse informant had provided this information.