A registered sex offender has been charged with kidnapping, sexually assaulting and murdering a New York teenager whose remains were found last week in South Carolina, 13 years after she went missing over spring break, authorities said.
Brittanee Drexel was 17 and a student at Gates Chili High School in Rochester, NY, when she disappeared on April 25, 2009 in Myrtle Beach, SC, sparking an extensive search by law enforcement.
This week, authorities said they had charged Raymond Moody, 62, with her murder. A registered sex offender from Georgetown, SC, was convicted in 1983 of rape, kidnapping, and sex crimes against a person under 14, records show.
“This is truly a mother’s worst nightmare,” Ms. Drexel’s mother, Dawn Drexel, said at a news conference with law enforcement officers in Georgetown on Monday. “I mourn my beautiful daughter Brittanee as I have for 13 years. But today it’s bittersweet. We are much closer to the closure and the peace we so desperately hoped for.”
Mr. Moody had long been a suspect in Ms. Drexel’s disappearance, and authorities searched his apartment in 2011 but found nothing related to the case, said Jason Lesley, a spokesman for the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office.
Then, last week, authorities arrested Mr. Moody on charges of obstruction of justice in connection with the disappearance of Ms. Drexel, said Mr. Lesley. During questioning, Mr. Moody that he Mrs. Drexel and told investigators where she was buried, Mr. Lesley.
On May 11, investigators recovered the remains of Ms. Drexel was found in a wooded area of Harmony Township, SC, about 40 miles south of Myrtle Beach, Mr. Lesley said. DNA and dental records confirmed the remains belonged to her, authorities said, adding that she had been strangled.
Moody’s attorney G. Scott Bellamy did not immediately respond to messages Tuesday.
Mrs. Drexel, a soccer player who had hoped to become a nurse or beautician, had originally gone to Myrtle Beach without her parents’ permission. Her mother found out she was there when Mrs. Drexel’s boyfriend called to tell her he was afraid he and her friends hadn’t heard from her, People magazine reported in 2009.
“The day she left, she was mad at me for asking me if she could go and I said no,” Dawn Drexel told People that year. “I said, ‘There are no adults going and I have no idea who these kids are and I’m not comfortable with it.'”
At Monday’s press conference, Amy Prock, the Myrtle Beach police chief, said the disappearance of Ms. Drexel was a case that had stuck with investigators for years. Authorities, she said, had stayed close to the Drexel family over the past 13 years, as they “exhaust lane after lane”.
“It’s not the last chapter we were hoping for,” said Chef Prock.
Dawn Drexel said the family planned to hold celebrations of her daughter’s life in Myrtle Beach and Rochester. She thanked the investigators who she said “never gave up on the search for Brittanee and the individuals responsible for taking her from us.”
“Today marks the beginning of a new chapter,” said Dawn Drexel. “The search for Brittanee is now a pursuit of Brittanee’s justice.”