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13 years after spring break disappearance, police find teen’s remains

Myrtle Beach, S.C., officials said Brittanee Drexel, 17, was kidnapped, raped and killed by suspect Raymond Moody

Dawn Drexel attends a 2016 news conference about her daughter, Brittanee, who went missing in 2009 while on spring break in Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Janet Blackmon Morgan/Sun News/AP)

Dawn Drexel had a sinking feeling about her daughter, Brittanee, going to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for spring break in 2009. So she said she was concerned that no adults were going and refused the 17-year-old’s request.

“I told her I just felt something was going to happen to her,” Dawn, of Rochester, N.Y., told People. “I just felt it.”

Brittanee went anyway. Within days, she was missing.

For 13 years, Dawn and Chad Drexel have lived in a state of limbo, holding out hope that their daughter was still alive. Now, they finally have news: Law enforcement officials announced on Monday that they had found Brittanee’s remains and arrested the man they say is responsible for her death.

Raymond Douglas Moody, 62, an early suspect in the case, was charged with murder, kidnapping and criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, Georgetown County Sheriff Carter Weaver said at a news conference on Monday. Moody, who was first arrested on May 4 for obstruction of justice, has “an extensive sex offender criminal history,” Weaver said. Moody is being held without bond, officials said. Jail records do not list an attorney.

“This is truly a mother’s nightmare,” Dawn said at the news conference. “I am 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.”

Days passed before Dawn realized her daughter had run off to Myrtle Beach with friends in April 2009, she told People. Brittanee had asked to stay with a friend for a few days to cool off from their fight about the spring break trip. She had called her mother a few times, once even apologizing for their fight. Meanwhile, Dawn was unaware that Brittanee left the state on April 22 and had been calling from Myrtle Beach. She found out days later when Brittanee’s boyfriend, who stayed home in Rochester, called saying he was concerned after not hearing from her.

Brittanee was last seen before 9 p.m. on April 25, captured on security footage leaving a hotel about a mile and a half from where she was staying. She had been visiting friends there, police said, but she never made it back to her hotel.

For more than a decade, local, state and federal agencies have worked on the case. The most significant development came Wednesday, when Weaver said “investigative findings and evidence” led FBI agents to Brittanee’s remains. Dental records and DNA testing proved it was Brittanee, Weaver said.

Moody is accused of kidnapping, raping and killing Brittanee on April 25 before leaving her remains the following day in a wooded area about 35 miles south of where she was last seen, officials said. An arrest warrant obtained by WCIV/WPDE says Moody is accused of strangling the teen to death. Law enforcement did not say what evidence they believe links Moody to the crimes.

Now, Brittanee’s family can start the process of healing as prosecutors prepare their case against Moody, Jimmy Richardson, the county solicitor, said at the news conference.

“There are few things in life worse than losing a child. But one of the things that I believe qualifies for that is losing a child and not being able to bury that child,” Richardson said. “ … But what we have been able to do is to return a body to Chad and Dawn and hopefully start the process of closure.”

Brittanee’s parents thanked law enforcement for their efforts in the investigation and said they had faith that prosecutors would see the case through.

“Today marks the beginning of a new chapter,” Dawn said Monday. “The search for Brittanee is now a pursuit of Brittanee’s justice.”