A South Carolina man has been charged with the kidnapping, rape and murder of a 17-year-old girl, who disappeared 13 years ago during a spring break trip. Police recovered the long-missing remains of Brittanee Drexel, a New York girl, who disappeared while on a 2009 spring break trip to Myrtle Beach.
Police have now arrested Raymond Moody on charges of raping and killing Drexel before burying her body the next day in the woods, Georgetown County Sheriff Carter Weaver said on Monday at a news conference. Police said that Drexel's body was found on May 11. Her parents were present for Monday's announcement.
Caught at Last
Investigators kept quiet about the break in the case until Moody, 62, was charged on Monday. He did not have a lawyer, according to jail records.
Drexel was last seen walking between hotels in Myrtle Beach in April 2009. When she stopped responding to SMS, her boyfriend in Rochester, New York, became concerned. Moody kidnapped Drexel that night and raped and strangled her to death before burying her body the next day in the woods, authorities stated at a press conference on Monday.
"The why may never be known or understood. But today, this task force can confidently and without hesitation answer the rest of those questions along with the 'Who is responsible?'" Weaver said.
Last Wednesday, Drexel's corpse was discovered in Georgetown County, some 35 miles down the coast from where she went missing. Her identification was established by dental records and DNA tests.
"This is truly a mother's worst nightmare," Dawn Drexel told reporters. "I am mourning my beautiful daughter today, as I have for the last 13 years. We are much closer to the peace that I have been hoping for."
Weaver said his officers "mourn with you and pray with you as you cope with the tragedies of 13 years ago. No one deserves to go through this, and our heart goes out to you."
A cause of death was not discussed.
Moody, who has an "extensive sex offender background," had been a target of the investigation since 2011, but was only detained last month, according to police. He has been in custody on $100,000 bail since his May 4.
According to State Law Enforcement Division records, Moody was on the sex offender registry in South Carolina for 1983 convictions in California for sodomy by force of a minor and kidnapping.
Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock said at the press conference that finding Drexel's remains was bittersweet since the police had hoped for a happier ending.
Drexel was still a high school student when she and her friends left Chili, New York, for Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to visit family. Her parents, on the other hand, had no idea she was traveling so far. And then she went missing.
Beach also said how after 13 years of wild rumors, including stash houses for sexual abuse victims' bodies to be fed to alligators and rumored links to other missing women, police managed to crack Drexel's case. After reviewing the evidence in Drexel's case again, investigators were finally drawn to Moody, who was living in Georgetown at the time of her disappearance.
Officials did not explain how the ex-con was linked to the missing kid, but they did say charges against him were made possible by 'investigative findings' and 'evidence' leading to the burial site.