Who Was Brittanee Drexel?
Brittanee was a 17-year-old, high school student in Chili, New York. She was a local soccer star, an aspiring cosmetologist, and a loyal girlfriend to her longtime boyfriend, John Grieco. Brittanee was a vibrant teenager who may not have had a perfect relationship with her parents, but they were close and a part of a tight-knit family unit.
The Lie That Would Backfire
Brittanee and a group of her friends planned a Spring Break trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Brittanee’s mother, Dawn, was not comfortable with her daughter traveling so far with a group of friends she had never been introduced to. Instead, Brittanee asked her mom if she could go to Charlotte Beach instead, which is located in New York state, and her mother reluctantly agreed. However, this was a ploy, as Brittanee planned on going to Myrtle Beach with her friends without her mother knowing.
The Final “I Love You”
The day that Brittanee arrived in Myrtle Beach, she called her mother to adhere to the illusion that she was in Charlotte Beach. Brittanee had told her mom that she planned on having a quiet night in with her friends; they were going to watch a movie and relax. Before Brittanee and Dawn ended their phone conversation, Brittanee told her mom “I’ll see you later. I love you.” Sadly, she never made it home to Chili, New York where her parents would be expecting her.
The Sweet Taste Of Freedom
Brittanee was in Myrtle Beach with her friends Jennifer Oberer, Phillip Oberer and Allana Lippa. She was also spontaneously joined by an acquaintance from Rochester, New York; a club promoter named Peter Brozowitz. Peter had only met Brittanee briefly on one prior occasion and the 4 friends who tagged along with him for the secret Spring Break getaway were complete strangers to Brittanee and her friends. Peter and his group stayed at the Bluewater Hotel on Ocean Boulevard and met Brittanee and her friends on a beach a day after they had arrived. This was the first formal encounter for both parties involved.
The 60 Hour Window
Brittanee was on vacation for a total of 60 hours before she was abducted. The picture below is one of Brittanee’s final moments in her hotel room on the night of April 24th, 2009. The group of friends were staying at the Bar Harbor Resort in room 301 on the 100th block of North Ocean Boulevard.
The Last Sighting
On April 25th, 2009 Brittanee left her hotel at 8:15 pm to go visit Peter and his friends at the Bluewater Hotel (where they were officially staying). Brittanee was wearing one of her friend’s shorts and received a text message from that same friend, asking her to bring them back to the hotel. She then left Peter’s hotel at 8:48 pm. Pictured below is the video footage that shows Brittanee leaving the Bluewater Hotel and it’s also the last, official sighting of her before she mysteriously vanished.
Abrupt Radio Silence
Throughout the course of the evening, Brittanee had been texting with her boyfriend back in New York, John. In the series of messages between the couple, Brittanee mentioned that her friends were doing drugs and she felt ostracized because she wasn’t participating. She also mentioned the borrowed pair of shorts she was wearing and that her friend insisted on her immediately returning them. As Brittanee left the hotel at 8:48 pm, her final message to John expressed her desire to pack as soon as she returned to her hotel on Ocean Boulevard and gave back the shorts. He asked her “Why?” and she never responded.
Myrtle Beach Exposed
Shortly after 9 pm, John became worried that Brittanee never answered his text. He grew with panic and called her multiple times with no answer. Then, he decided that something was wrong, as it was unusual for Brittanee to ignore or not reply to his calls and messages. In a state of worry, John told Brittanee’s mother, Dawn, that she was in fact not in Charlotte Beach and was vacationing in Myrtle Beach against her mother’s wishes. John and Dawn got on a plane that same night and flew to Myrtle Beach and alerted the local authorities of Brittanee’s disappearance.
Searching Her Cell Service
In an attempt to track Brittanee down, the local authorities traced Brittanee’s cell phone and picked up a signal from a tower located in Surfside Beach at 9:27 pm. Surfside Beach was about 7 miles south of Myrtle Beach. This confused Brittanee’s friends, mom, and boyfriend, as she would have no reason to be down there. But then, another cell tower picks up a signal from Brittanee’s phone unexpectedly…
Time To Panic
At 11:59 pm, Brittanee’s cell phone signal was picked up 50 miles south of Myrtle Beach. She had traveled even farther than anyone expected, therefore, fear started to set in. This was the final signal picked up by Myrtle Beach authorities, leaving everyone to believe that Brittanee’s cell phone had been turned off or the battery was removed around midnight. The last known sighting of Brittanee was earlier that evening at 9:03 pm by a traffic light. After Brittanee’s phone went silent, the police began to speculate a possible abduction.
Looking For Brittanee
On April 26th, 2009 the search for Brittanee Drexel began. Rescue teams and volunteer groups were frantically searching up and down Ocean Boulevard and the police searched as high and low as Charleston and Georgetown Counties. Brittanee’s mother, Dawn, and more family members who traveled down to South Carolina for the search handed out missing person flyers. The list of suspects grew longer and the local authorities began the interview and questioning process as they followed up on leads. Unfortunately, after a few days, the case was listed as a possible homicide.
Brittanee’s Unique Defect
Upon her disappearance, Brittanee’s mother spread the word regarding her abnormal birth defect around the community of Myrtle Beach. Dawn was hoping this piece of information would help a member of the searching party identify her missing daughter. Brittanee was born with Persistent Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous, an eye disease that would casts shadows in her line of sight. Over the course of her life, she had several surgeries to correct her vision.
Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop
When the search initially began, the rescue teams and volunteer groups looked for Brittanee for 11 consecutive days and nights. The search parties averaged about 500 people but one specific weekend, almost 800 volunteers scoured Myrtle Beach and its surrounding towns to find the missing girl. They had no luck in locating Brittanee during the first 5 months of searching but police managed to collect substantiate evidence that led them to a person of interest in the case.
Suspect #1 was Peter Brozowitz – the promoter from New York who was the last person to see Brittanee alive when she left his hotel on the night she was abducted. Police questioned Peter because of his strange behavior that almost immediately followed her disappearance. On the night Brittanee vanished, Peter checked out of the Bluewater Hotel at 2 am and left behind all of his personal belongings which included the $100 room deposit.
Person Of Innocence?
Peter quickly made a public statement declaring his innocence to the media. His most memorable appearance was on Dr. Phil, where he stated that although yes, he was the last person to see Brittanee alive, he had nothing to do with her abduction. He also insisted that he would cooperate in any way necessary to find her and bring her home to New York. Due to a lack of evidence, Peter was never charged and ruled out as a person of interest or suspect.
Motivation In Myrtle Beach
As Brittanee’s disappearance made headline news, further information about the New York high school was made public. Brittanee was known to struggle with situational depression as a result of her parents’ recent divorce and she had a hard time coping with the adjustment. In addition, Brittanee wished to pursue modeling and her mother, Dawn, presented the possibility that Brittanee could have been lured to Myrtle Beach for a modeling opportunity she was offered on the internet. These two elements combined – could have made her a perfect target for anyone wishing to lure and adbduct Brittanee.
Sold Into Human Trafficking
If Brittanee was in fact lured to Myrtle Beach to pursue a modeling job, there was a possibility that it was a ploy to kidnap and place her into a human trafficking ring. From 1997 until 2010 alone, there have been 12 documented cases of sex trafficking in South Caroline and Myrtle Beach specifically, is a primary hub for locating prospective girls. Dawn feared for her daughter’s life and had the awry emotion that Brittanee could, in fact, be a part of a traffic ring following her abduction.
51 year old, Raymond Moody, was the second person of interest in the case of Brittanee’s abduction. The night that Brittanee disappeared, he was staying in a Georgetown County hotel. He also received a traffic ticket in Surfside Beach, where Brittanee’s cell phone service was briefly located, the day after she disappeared. Moody’s history with the law was the local authority’s motivation to consider him as a prime suspect…
A Convicted Felon
In 1983, Randy Moody was charged and convicted with the sexual assault and kidnapping of a child under 14 years of age. At the time of Brittanee’s disappearance, he was also being questioned in an unrelated case – the disappearance of a 28-year-old woman. Randy Moody’s wrap sheet and his current situation with the law placed him in a compromising position.
The Case Takes A Strange Turn
In 2016, Myrtle Beach police were provided with an interesting piece of information that finally led to the break they’ve been waiting for. 7 years after Brittanee went missing, Taquan Brown (an inmate currently serving a 25-year sentence) came forward with a confession that detailed the night Brittanee was abducted. The validity of Brown’s confession was called into question, so FBI Detective Gerrick Munoz had collected secondhand information to corroborate his story with other inmates and past evidence.
The Confession’s Details
Taquan Brown’s confession was shocking and disturbing for all to hear. On the night of April 24th, 2009 Brown went to a local “stash house” in McClellanville, South Carolina to meet a dealer named Shaun Taylor. When he entered the home filled with illegal weapons and drugs, he began to pursue an illegal transaction with Taylor. To his surprise, he saw what became of Brittanee during the final moments of her life.
Brittanee’s Act Of Defiance
Taquan Taylor stated after he entered the home, he saw the son of Shaun Taylor, Da’Shaun Taylor, and a group of boys sexually assaulting Brittanee in a corner. As Taquan gave Shaun a wad of money during their exchange, he noticed Brittanee try to get up and run away but she was caught by Da’Shaun and he “pistol-whipped” her, before bringing her back inside the house. Taquan then heard two gunshots go off and then witnessed her body being removed from the “stash house” wrapped in a covering.
After Taquan Brown gave his official statement, another inmate who chose to remain anonymous stepped forward to speak with Agent Munoz. He told the FBI agent that he had heard this story before, from Taquan Brown inside of their prison cell, and that he remembered the details regarding Brittanee’s capture. The anonymous inmate said that Brittanee was manipulated into going with Da’Shaun to McClellanville from Myrtle Beach and when they arrived to his “stash house,” that’s when he “ended up tricking her out with some of their friends, offering her to them and getting a human trafficking situation.”
Brittanee’s Swampy Grave
According to the testimonies that FBI Munoz gathered, he was led to believe that Brittanee’s body was dumped in a nearby lake. There are 40 documented alligator swamps in the McClellanville area and FBI Agents, up until this point, have searched multiple of them. So far, Brittanee’s body has not been found.
Is The Confession Real?
Many people have questioned whether or not Taquan Brown’s confession was legitimate or not. His “jailhouse confession” could be an attempt at trading valuable information for a reduced prison sentence, which he is still serving 25 years on voluntary manslaughter charges. False confessions, in the past, have been used as an inmate tactic to be granted early release.
Da’Shaun Taylor Is Set Free
After police initially arrested Da’Shaun Taylor for the homicide of Brittanee Drexel, he was released on $10,000 bail. There was not enough sufficient evidence to hold him behind bars and his defense attorney refuses to give into the pressure of an illicit “jailhouse confession” by an already convicted felon (Taquan Brown). Luckily for the prosecution, Da’Shaun’s family history is enough to keep him as a primary suspect…
Brittanee’s Dad Meets Da’Shaun
After Brittanee had disappeared in 2009, her father, Chad, came down to Myrtle Beach to help search for her. Chad was passing out missing person flyers on a dirt road almost 7 years ago, when Da’Shaun Taylor was stopped and sitting in his car. He walked up to Da’Shaun, not knowing who he was at the time, and handed him a flyer with Brittanee’s picture on it. Da’Shaun looked at the flyer, laughed, crumpled it up, and threw it out the window just as he drove away. If only Brittanee’s father had known who he was meeting at the time.
What Brittanee Would Look Like Today
To aid the search cause, an age progression photo of Brittanee was released to the public. In Myrtle Beach, Dawn is now the state director and board member for the CUE Center, which is a non-profit organization that organizes search parties for missing people. The CUE Center has not given up on looking for Brittanee, as well.
Da’Shaun’s Mother Fights Back
The mother of Da’Shaun Taylor, Joan Taylor, and wife to Shaun Taylor has spoken out against the claims that the two men are responsible for Brittanee’s unknown fate. She insists that this type of behavior is not characteristic of Shaun and their son, often emphasizing on the fact that there is no evidence linking them to the crime or knowing Brittanee at all. Joan Taylor believes that the prosecution and FBI are “trying to pin” the charge on the blamed men.
Da’Shaun Declares Innocence
Da’Shaun has of course, come to his own defense and rallied amongst the media circuit to proclaim his innocence on many occasions. He denies ever knowing Brittanee Drexel and being in the Myrtle Beach area on April 24th – 25th in 2009. He also claims that he was in school on the 24th and 25th, which conflicts with the witness testimony accounts. As for his father, Shaun, he denies any involvement as well.
The Lie Detector Test
Da’Shaun claims that in 2009 he took a lie detector and answered the following questions: Do you know Brittanee Drexel? Have you ever met Brittanee Drexel? Do you know where Brittanee is? He answered “No” to each of the inquiries, according to his memory. At the time of the test, Da’Shaun was told that if the police had any further questions or wished to share the results that they would contact him to follow up. He didn’t hear from any legal authority again, until 2016.
The Private Eye
Brittanee’s father, Chad, hired a private investigator to follow the Taylor in an attempt to gather evidence that could help him or the prosecution uncover his daughter’s whereabouts. Chad claims that Da’Shaun has connections to the exact area where Brittanee’s DNA was discovered and is certain that he can help convict his daughter’s alleged killer. Chad was also flabbergasted by the remarks Joan Taylor had made about her son. She stated that Da’Shan was a “good kid” and Chad was simultaneously offended and shocked by the poor understanding of her own child.
The lead investigator on the Brittanee Drexel case, Chris Bailey, believes that Da’Shaun is guilty and that his father is the sole accomplice. Bailey himself witnessed the interaction between Brittanee’s father and Da’Shaun on the day he was given a flyer, laughed, and crumpled it up. Da’Shaun’s appearance on Dr. Phil greatly upset Bailey and he responded with a public statement on 13WHAM News, stating that they young man is not innocent and will have his day in court.
The Taylor Family History
The Taylor family is no stranger to violence offense. In 2001, Da’Shaun’s uncle, Randall Keith Taylor, was arrested for the abduction, sexual assault, and homicide of 19-year-old Shannon McConaughey. Shannon, who is pictured below, disappeared in 1998 and never received justice. There wasn’t enough evidence to convict Randall Keith Taylor and he was released after the charges against him were dropped. In light of recent events and because of the similarities between Shannon and Brittanee’s cases, the Shannon McConaughey case has been re-opened.
Shaun Taylor’s Past
In 2010, Shaun Taylor was arrested after turning himself into the police for a similar offense. A woman who was almost kidnapped on Ocean Boulevard and managed to successfully escape, picked Shaun out of a lineup as one of the men who tried to abduct her. The charges against Shaun were dropped, as there was once again, not enough evidence to prove he was guilty.
Da’Shaun’s Attorney Is A Criminal
Mark Peper is the South Caroline defense attorney who is defending Da”Shaun Taylor in the case of Brittanee Drexel. In January 2010, Peper was arrested for driving under the influence and possession of a narcotic (cocaine). The offense was reported in the Charleston Post & Courier Newspaper after he was arrested on January 2nd. Now, Da’Shaun is represented by a new attorney – David Aylor.
The Usual Suspects
Da’Shaun and Shaun Taylor are still the primary suspects in Brittanee Drexel’s presumed homicide. There is no hard evidence to charge the father and son but the FBI are working everyday to bring them to trial. Currently, Da’Shaun is being held by Myrtle Beach police for a robbery he helped commit in 2011 and they’re hoping these minor charges scare him into cooperating with the FBI on Brittanee’s case. There is a $25,000 reward being offered to anyone who steps forward with information.
“Brittanee’s Little Angels”
Brittanee’s Little Angels is a foundation that was developed and launched by Brittanee’s mother, Dawn Drexel, in September 2016. The foundation aims to support and provide families with long-term advocacy services as they look for their missing children and those sold into human trafficking rings. For more information on Brittanee’s Little Angels, visit the website and find out what you can do to help.
The Search Goes On
Even without the discovery of Brittanee’s remains, the FBI believes that she is no longer alive and hasn’t been since she was first abducted in 2009. Dawn, however, still holds on to some fragment of hope that daughter is out there. The FBI is still searching Myrtle Beach and the surrounding area for Brittanee (or her body). Dawn recently planted a tree in Brittanee’s memory and now lives in Myrtle Beach so she can feel connected to her missing daughter somehow, some way.
Brittanee’s Best Friend
Brittanee’s disappearance has had an effect on many people in her life. Her best friend, Tarah Friedman, has decided to change the course of her life because of what happened to the girl she considered to like family. After Brittanee’s disappearance, Tarah had joined the Drexel family in Myrtle Beach for several months to pass out missing person flyers and help search for her on foot. Today, she studies pre-law and plans on becoming a prosecuting attorney. Like most of Brittanee’s family members and friends, Tarah still has hope that they’ll find Brittanee one day.