COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The body of a 17-year-old girl from New York who disappeared while visiting South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach on spring break 13 years ago has been found and a sex offender has been charged with murder, kidnapping and rape, authorities said Monday.
Brittanee Drexel was last seen April 2009 when she was walking between hotels in Myrtle Beach. Her boyfriend, who stayed home in Rochester, New York, became concerned when she stopped answering texts.
Drexel was kidnapped that night by Raymond Douglas Moody, who raped and killed her before burying her body the next day in the woods, Georgetown County Sheriff Carter Weaver said Monday at a news conference.
Drexel’s body was found last Wednesday in Georgetown County, about 35 miles down the coast from where she disappeared. The discovery came after a flurry of tips and investigation that included Moody’s arrest May 4 on an obstruction of justice charge.
Investigators remained silent about the break in the case until Monday, when Moody, 62, was charged. Jail records did not indicate if he had a lawyer.
Sheriff Weaver said Moody has an “extensive sex offender history” but did not provide details. Moody is on South Carolina’s sex offender registry for 1983 convictions in California for sodomy by force of someone under 14 and kidnapping, according to State Law Enforcement Division Records.
The sheriff, the Myrtle Beach police chief, the FBI agent in charge of South Carolina and solicitor all said little Monday about what helped them crack the case after 13 years of wild rumors that included stash houses for sexual abuse victims’ bodies to be fed to alligators and rumored links to other missing women.
Arrest warrants said Drexel was strangled the night she disappeared.
Police said dental records backed up by DNA testing confirmed Drexel’s remains had been found last week.
“It’s a good day to soberly be reminded of Brittanee and all that she and her family have had to go through,” Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said.
Drexel’s parents made another trip to the Myrtle Beach area this week, but this one was different than the other visits that involved candlelight vigils, media interviews and updates from investigators without answers.
“Today marks the beginning of a new chapter The search for Brittanee is now a pursuit of Brittanee’s justice,” said Drexel’s mother Dawn.
She thanked all the investigators who worked to find her daughter.
“This is truly a mother’s worst nightmare. I am mourning my beautiful daughter Brittanee as I have for the past 13 years,” she said.
Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock was working for the department when Drexel disappeared and said she never forgot the case as she rose through the ranks.
“It’s not the final chapter we had been hoping for,” Prock said Monday. “Every police officer has that one case that frequents their every waking thought.”