McCLELLANVILLE, S.C. (AP) - Seven years after a teen disappeared while on a spring break trip to Myrtle Beach, the case is now considered a homicide and a $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to a conviction, the FBI said Wednesday.
Brittanee Drexel of Rochester, New York, was 17 when she was last seen leaving a beachfront hotel in April 2009 in video recorded on a surveillance camera.
The investigation indicates Drexel was likely held against her will and killed in the vicinity of McClellanville, a fishing hamlet about 60 miles southwest of Myrtle Beach, said FBI South Carolina Special Agent in Charge David Thomas. Drexel's cellphone transmitted its last known signal the day after she disappeared near the South Santee River, about 15 miles outside McClellanville.
Thomas said the teen was probably in the area for several days, and he urged anyone with information to come forward.
"After seven long years of waiting and praying for the return of my daughter, we know she isn't coming home alive," Dawn Drexel, the missing woman's mother, told reporters. "Brittanee's life was stolen from her in a brutal and senseless fashion. I need your help in bringing the people responsible for her death to justice."
The investigation for years has been handled as a missing-person case.
Although authorities have believed for some time that Brittanee was probably dead, they didn't say so earlier "in the interest of trying to protect the parents and ... maintain hope that we could still bring her back alive."
Asked if anything has changed in recent weeks that prompted the news conference, Thomas said, "We think we are at the point where one or two small pieces of information could put us over the edge. We're reaching out to those people that may have information."