GEORGETOWN COUNTY, S.C. — South Carolina officials have confirmed remains found last Wednesday in a wooded area along Old Town Avenue in Harmony Township are those of Brittanee Drexel who went missing 13 years ago.
Georgetown County Sheriff Carter Weaver said the remains were found and identified through dental records. Drexel was 17 when she went missing, News 13 of Myrtle Beach reported.
“The ‘why’ may never be known or understood, but today this task force can confidently and without hesitation answer the rest of those questions along with the who is responsible,” Sheriff Weaver said. “The who is Raymond Douglas Moody.”
The teen from Rochester was on spring break in Myrtle Beach when she vanished April 25, 2009. Law enforcement authorities arrested Moody who is a career sex offender. He’s been charged with murder, kidnapping and criminal sexual conduct in the first degree.
Drexel’s remains were discovered in Georgetown County, not far from Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach, where she was last seen after leaving the hotel, Weaver said at a Monday press conference.
15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said evidence shows Drexel was raped and killed at the Santee River and then her body was taken to Old Town Avenue, News 13 reported.
According to the sheriff, Moody strangled Drexel on the day she disappeared and buried her body the next day, the New York Post reported.
“This is truly a mother’s worst nightmare,” Brittanee’s mother Dawn Drexel said at the press conference.
“I’m mourning my beautiful daughter Brittanee as I have been for 13 years, but today it’s bittersweet. We are much closer to the closure and the peace that we have been desperately hoping for.”
The long-time investigation led police to an area in Georgetown where Drexel’s body was believed to be buried. Her remains were identified as a positive match through dental records as well as DNA testing, authorities confirmed.
It was unclear what led investigators to the location where her remains were discovered.
Raymond Moody was arrested and charged with murder, kidnapping and criminal sexual conduct in the first degree. (Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office)
Investigators said they never stopped searching for Drexel and her killer, the New York Post reported.
During the news conference Monday, the sheriff offered words of solace to the teen’s family.
“To the Drexel family, we mourn with you and pray for you as you cope with the tragedies of 13 years ago,” Weaver said. “No one deserves to go through this and our hearts go out to you. Our only hope is that this finding allows your family to grieve properly for Brittanee.”
Dawn Drexel said the family is organizing a celebration of her daughter’s life both in Rochester and Myrtle Beach.
“Today marks the beginning of a new chapter,” she said. “The search for Brittanee is now a pursuit for Brittanee’s justice. … It may have took them a long time, but we are glad that we are able to bring Brittanee home.”
Chad Drexel, Brittanee Drexel’s father, expressed his painful thoughts.
“We have a little more closure than what we wanted,” Chad Drexel said. “Weighing this all out is tough on a dad, tough on a mother, but having faith and hope is what’s gonna guide us to the end result.”