MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — In April 2009, Brittanee Drexel, 17, from Rochester, New York, asked her mother, Dawn Drexel, if she could go with friends down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for spring break, a common thing for Rochester teens to do every year. Her mother said no because she did not know these friends.
On April 24, 2009, Drexel asked her mom for permission to go with her friends to Charlotte Beach in New York state for the weekend, and her mother said yes.
The next day Drexel phoned her mother, who believed she was still at Charlotte Beach.
“Mom, I’ll see you tomorrow, I love you,”
In reality, Drexel and friends Jennifer Oberer, Philip Oberer, and Alanna Lippa traveled to Myrtle Beach on April 24, 2009. The group checked in at the Bar Harbor Resort on North Ocean Boulevard.
Club promoter Peter Brozowitz, then 20 years old, and his friends – Matthew Abrams, Philip Watson, Keith Cummings, and Anthony Schimizzi – stayed at the BlueWater Resort on South Ocean Boulevard, about 1.4 miles from Drexel’s hotel.
Drexel and Brozowitz were friends in Rochester. On April 24, 2009, Drexel and her friends went to Club Kryptonite, a Myrtle Beach nightclub located at U.S. 17 Bypass and 29th Avenue North, where they ran into Brozowitz and his friends.
The following day between 11 a.m. and noon, Drexel met Brozowitz and his gang on the beach near BlueWater Resort and again around 8 p.m. in their hotel room.
Drexel left BlueWater for Bar Harbor around 8:10 p.m. to return the pair of shorts she was wearing to one of her friends and has not been seen since, according to the police report.
The walk back to Drexel’s hotel should have taken about 30 minutes.
As she headed to her hotel, she began texting with her boyfriend back home, John Grieco. Around 9:15 p.m., the texts stopped. Grieco attempted to text her back, but the texts went unanswered.
Grieco texted Drexel, threatening to call her mother and tell her where Drexel was if she did not respond.
Drexel never did.
Grieco immediately called Dawn Drexel, who began calling and texting Drexel and her group of friends. All calls and texts to them went unanswered.
A few hours later, around 1 a.m. on April 26, 2009, Brozowitz and his friends hurriedly checked out of the BlueWater Resort and returned to Rochester. Upon his arrival, Brozowitz immediately lawyered up.
Brozowitz later went on the Dr. Phil Show to clear his name.
During the investigation, it was revealed that Drexel’s cell phone pinged more than once near the Georgetown County/Charleston County line shortly after her disappearance on April 25, 2009.
A few days later, police received a tip on a possible sighting of Drexel on a bus that had traveled from Georgetown to Myrtle Beach. The person said Drexel exited the bus around 8:30 am near the Bar Harbor hotel, where Drexel and her friends stayed. Police said at the time that others confirmed this sighting.
Almost one year after Drexel disappeared, a college student came forward with a cell phone video he recorded on April 24, 2009, of Drexel sitting on the bed and in a chair on the balcony in his hotel room, texting.
In August 2011, authorities searched Apartment 22 at Sunset Lodge in Georgetown, SC, but released little details. Residents referred to the man who lived there as “Mr. Clean” because of his appearance.
In 2012, police released that man’s name as a person of interest – convicted sex offender Raymond Moody, 53, who resided in the apartment for six months following Drexel’s disappearance.
Drexel has never been found. Her family believes she is a victim of human trafficking. Others believe she was murdered and her body dumped in a swamp.
Human trafficking has become a big problem in South Carolina over the last few years, with Myrtle Beach being one of the major U.S. hubs. Police will not rule it out, but that is not the main focus of the investigation and never has been.
Overall, from 1997-2010, South Carolina reported 12 cases of documented sex trafficking. Out of those cases, 12 individual women were victims of this crime, according to Doors to Freedom, an organization that helps victims of sex trafficking.
In 2005, Jose Hernandez-Becerra of Myrtle Beach, SC, was charged with Prostitution/Brothel Owner and Sex Trafficking involving multiple victims.
In October 2009, Jorge Flores-Rojas was convicted of operating a sex trafficking business from Charlotte, NC, to Washington, D.C. He was arrested in Myrtle Beach.
Update: March 25, 2017: K9 unit, excavator on the scene of search for Brittanee Drexel’s remains in Georgetown County
Update: July 14, 2016: Police announced a suspect or suspects have been identified in Brittanee’s disappearance and possible murder. However, no names or additional details have been released so far.
Update: June 9, 2016: FBI believe Brittanee Drexel may have been held captive for several days and murdered.