WHAT HAPPENED? (1)
On April 25, 2009, a 17-year-old girl named Brittanee Drexel walked from one hotel to another while on a spring break vacation, texting her boyfriend to say she was going to see another friend. She has never been seen or heard from again.
In 2016, a prison inmate told police that Brittanee had been abducted and killed, but the man who was accused by that informant has denied any knowledge or involvement of the crime. The FBI considers Brittanee's case a homicide, but a suspect has not been identified.
Brittanee had gone to Myrtle Beach for spring break without her mother's knowledge or permission, and was never seen again.
LEADING UP TO THE DISAPPEARANCE (1)
Born in Rochester, New York in 1991, Brittanee was born to an unidentified man of Turkish descent and her mother, Dawn. Shortly after her birth, Dawn married Chad Drexel, who adopted Brittanee as his own.
She was athletic and liked soccer. She wanted to become a nurse, a cosmetologist or a model. Her distinctive appearance was a result of her persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous in her right eye, requiring several surgeries and ultimately, blindness in that eye, so she wore contacts.
Dawn and Chad separated in 2008, and their separation was difficult for Brittannee. On top of affecting her grades, it affected her mental health, aggravating the depression she had suffered for much of her life. After the separation, she stayed with her mother, but remained in close contact with Chad.
In April of 2009, Brittanee wanted to go to Myrtle Beach on spring break with her boyfriend and some of her close friends. Because Dawn didn't know any of the other teens, there would be no parental supervision, and Brittanee was only 17, her mother refused. Apparently, she also had a "premonition" that something bad would happen to her if she went.
Her mother's refusal to let her go lead to fights in the days leading up to April 22, when Brittanee asked if she could stay with a friend for a few days to get some space and calm down, and Dawn agreed. That day, she left for the beach with her friends. She called her mom 3 days later to tell her that she was at the beach, but Dawn assumed she was at the Lake Ontario shoreline, which was close by and made sense given the warm temperatures that day.
DISAPPEARANCE & INVESTIGATION (1)
At around 8 PM on April 25, Brittanee left her friends at the bar in their hotel to walk about 1.5 miles to another hotel. Brittanee's long-time friend was staying there, and she wanted to visit. Security cameras show her arriving at the other hotel, the Blue Water Resort, wearing a tank top, flip flops and shorts, carrying a purse. The footage also shows her leaving at around 8:45 PM. (Which seems like a very quick visit, don't you think? She started walking at 8 PM. To walk 1.5 miles, especially in flip flops, would have to take somewhere between 25-30 minutes. And she was seen leaving at 8:45, meaning she was only visiting for 15-20 minutes? That's a long walk for a short visit.)
Brittanee had been texting her boyfriend, John Grieco, who was not able to come on the trip because of work. But at around 9:15 PM, she stopped texting him, and he began to worry, calling her friends in Myrtle Beach to see if they knew where she was, but they didn't. So, he called her mother.
Until getting the call from Grieco, Dawn had no idea that her daughter was in Myrtle Beach. She called Chad and the police, hoping they could connect with the police in South Carolina. Calls and texts to Brittanee's phone continued to go unanswered.
The following morning, Myrtle Beach police began looking for Brittanee. They located the friends whom she had visited. Peter Brozowitz, a 20-year-old nightclub promoter, was the last person who had seen Brittanee. He knew her from the Rochester area, and was also vacationing in the area. They had met at a nightclub the night before. After speaking to Peter and his hotel mates, police said that while no one had been ruled out, they did not have any persons of interest.
Searching Brittanee's hotel room, everything was there except for her purse and cell phone. The phone's network pings were tracked, but were about 60 miles south of Myrtle Beach. On the morning of April 26, the pings suddenly stopped. A search was conducted around the area of the cell phone pings, and around Myrtle Beach, for 11 days, but nothing turned up.
Dawn drove to Myrtle Beach the day after her daughter went missing, and eventually, moved there permanently to be close to where her daughter last was. Though Dawn believes that Brittanee had defied her to go to Myrtle Beach because she was lured, perhaps by a modeling job and ultimately trafficked, police believe that she was likely not trafficked given the limited amount of trafficking in the area. (Now, she most certainly could have been trafficked and not lured. I think Brittanee defied her mom because she was 17 and wanted to go to the beach with her friends, but she certainly still could have been trafficked as a pretty, young girl walking alone in a spring break city.)
ADVANCEMENTS YEARS LATER (1)
In June of 2016, after 7 years of nothing on the case, the FBI announced that they believed Brittanee had been killed shortly after she disappeared. They believed she was abducted on her walk home and killed near Georgetown, where her cell phone pings were picked up. A $25,000 reward was put up for information leading to her abductor and killer.
A few months later, allegations were reported based on a bond hearing for an inmate named Timothy Da'Shaun Taylor, serving time for an unrelated crime. FBI agent Gerrick Munoz said that earlier that year, an inmate by the name of Taquan Brown who was serving 25 years for manslaughter told them that in 2009, he had gone to visit a stash house in McClellanville to give money to Shaun Taylor, Timothy's father.
When he walked into the house, Brown had told the FBI that he saw Timothy Da'Shaun Taylor sexually abusing Brittanee with others present. He made his payment to Shaun, and saw Brittanee run from the home, but she was recaptured. Then, he heard 2 gunshots. He also claims to have seen a wrapped body being removed from the home and dumped in an alligator pond in the area.
Brown's statement was partially corroborated by information received by another informant from the Georgetown County Jail. According to that unidentified inmate, Timothy Da'Shaun Taylor picked Brittanee up in Myrtle Beach but took her to McClellanville to show her off to friends and try to sell her, but killed her when the case began to draw heavy media attention.
Timothy Da'Shaun Taylor's bond hearing was held after he was arrested on a federal indictment for "interfering in interstate commerce by threat or violence" from a 2011 McDonald's robbery in which he was the getaway driver, a crime he had already been convicted for and been sentenced to probation for. His lawyer said the new charge was bullshit and was only based on the testimony of 2 criminal informants. His mother said it was crazy, as her son and husband would have never been involved in anything of that nature.
The federal prosecutor admitted that his suspected involvement in Brittanee's case was the reason for the new charges, and it was not considered double jeopardy.
In March of 2018, it was reported that Taylor had taken a lie detector test, but failed. When asked if he had seen Brittanee after her disappearance, he was determined to have not been truthful.
Ultimately, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the 2011 robbery, and despite various attempts and appeals. In June of 2019, he was sentenced to time served.
(This got VERY confusing quickly. Ultimately, it appears that 2 dudes in different jails said this man, Taylor, had something to do with it. Because they couldn't arrest him for her disappearances bases just on 2 informant testimonies, they tried to bump up the charges on a robbery he had already been convicted and sentenced for. Despite various different sentences, he was eventually just sentenced to the time he had already served. He said he had nothing to do with it, but was determined to be lying when he said that during a polygraph.)
And it gets a bit more confusing. So, in 2019, Brown, the inmate who implicated Taylor, gave an interview, saying he had seen Brittanee 4 times after his disappearance. He said he saw her the initial time when he went to give Taylor's father money, and a few times months later. Despite saying that she was shot during that first encounter, he claimed that she was killed the last time he saw her.
Brown said the first time he saw Brittanee was April 27th. She was in the stash house with a group of 8-12 men being sexually assaulted. He didn't know who she was at the time, but figured it out when he saw her all over the news. He said he saw her a second time a few days later, which was the event he had described to the FBI including the gunshots and her body being carried out in a rug.
The 3rd time he saw her was 5 days later when he drove to Jacksonboro, 80 miles south of McClellanville where he had allegedly seen her twice before, to show his cousin his new car. He saw her on a "lightly traveled dirt road". The 4th and final time he saw her was in late May, on his cousin's property visiting a friend. Brittanee was with a group of men, and someone he knew as "Nate" shot her twice. Brown and his friend left immediately.
Some of his story was corroborated. His description of the stash house matches other descriptions from news reports. However, they were unable to locate the friend Brown claimed he was with, and the cousin who owned the property where Brittanee was allegedly killed is now dead.
Ultimately, the story makes some sense. Brown passed a lie detector test when describing his involvement and knowledge, and his story was half-supported by another inmate. Taylor, on the other hand, failed his lie detector test. Taylor also confessed that he heard people arguing over what to do with Brittanee's phone, but denied any other knowledge, so it seems as if he did at least see her after she was taken.
THEORIES FROM THE INTERNET SLEUTHS
Though the Brown/Taylor/prison confession theory holds a lot of ground, and it seems like a lot of people know a little bit about what happened, no one has been convicted or even arrested for her kidnapping and suspected murder. Because of that, many other theories float around the internet as to what could have happened to Brittanee.
One is that Peter Brozowitz was somehow involved. Apparently, he checked out of his hotel at 1 AM that night and drove back to Rochester. It definitely seems fishy that he was the last person to see her, and then got up mid-vacation to leave in the middle of the night. Because she was seen leaving at 8:45, shortly after she arrived, some believe that he had picked her back up to go party. Then, they drank or did some sort of drug and she died accidentally. He panicked and disposed of her body, then went back to the hotel, packed his things, and checked out. However, that theory doesn't quite explain why her phone was found 60 miles away. Did he drive her body there to dispose of her? (2)
Others think it was just an opportunistic predator. No sex trafficking ring, just a terrible person who saw a 17-year-old girl walking around alone. It was spring break, he could have been cruising around looking for a drunk girl to kidnap and kill. Apparently, Brittanee had walked back and forth between the 2 hotels in the nights before. Perhaps someone had been observing her behavior, waiting for an opportune time to take her. (2)
Another theory combines a few theories, and that is that Brittanee's friends were involved, and maybe sold her out to the Taylor family. Apparently, Brittanee hadn't been having much fun on the trip and visited Peter because her friends were doing drugs and getting into things that she didn't want to partake in. When she left to meet Peter, she had borrowed her friend Jennifer's shorts, and after she arrived, Jennifer asked her to bring them back. She left the room for the 1.5 mile walk back to her hotel to return the shorts, and was snatched. Was it a set up by her friends and Peter? Apparently, none of her friends helped look for Brittanee, and wouldn't talk to the family. The theory I read claimed that perhaps the friends had a drug debt and sold Brittanee to the Taylor Crime Family to pay it, but that seems highly unlikely... But the actions of Peter and the friends are suspicious. (3)
Whatever happened to Brittanee, it is safe to assume that she is dead. I feel terrible for Brittanee, and also for her mother who told her not to go. They spent the last few days they had together fighting, and I would imagine Dawn thinks about that every day. Whether she died in an accident with friends or someone close to her, she was abducted by a random predator and sex trafficked into a known crime family, whatever happened to Brittanee was tragic. She has now been missing for 11 years, and hopefully, one day closure will be found.