Investigators in the case of missing spring breaker Brittanee Drexel say they've developed three, possibly four, persons of interest in connection to the teen's disappearance.
"The people we're looking at, I feel really good about because all of our little pieces of evidence ... they're all pointing in the same direction towards certain people," Myrtle Beach Detective Vincent Dorio said Friday.
Drexel, 17 at the time of her disappearance and from Rochester, NY, vanished April 25, 2009, from Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach.
In the first few days following her disappearance, investigators tracked Drexel's cell phone signals to an area near the South Santee Community in Georgetown County.
Dozens of searches over the past year provided no substantial evidence, and at one point last fall, detectives described the case as becoming cold.
But Georgetown County Investigator Chris Bailey says that all changed during the holidays.
"I think the tip I received in the first part of December was the big turn around," Bailey said Friday afternoon during an interview.
Bailey, Dorio and Charleston County Detective Rocky Burke formed a task force soon after the December discovery and have spent most of this year developing additional leads.
The trio, along with an outside group, Merrill's Investigations, have concentrated their efforts in an area along the Georgetown/Charleston County line.
They're describing that area as the "location of interest," and they say it's where the persons of interest live. However, detectives wouldn't provide specific details for fear of jeopardizing the investigation.
Bailey said the new information has recently provided enough probable cause for search warrants and even lie detector tests that have been given to the persons of interest.
"There have been some polygraphs, but again, we can't discuss that," Bailey said. "But we're real comfortable with our (persons of interest.)"
The persons of interest, Bailey said, know what happened to Drexel.
"They're suspected of being present with Brittanee, knowing her whereabouts or possible whereabouts," Bailey said.
The investigators, while confident in their persons of interest, say they still need the final clue to establish that a crime occurred.
"We could use that one person -- or that one piece of evidence -- that comes forward and ties everything together to make a solid arrest which leads to a solid conviction," Dorio, the Myrtle Beach detective said.
When asked whether they thought if Drexel is still alive, both Dorio and Bailey said no.
"Things that we are hearing, and I'm speaking for myself, leads to believe that she is not," Bailey said.
"In the beginning, it was a missing persons case, but everything we've looked at, I'm confident foul play was involved, and this is probably going to be a homicide investigation," added Dorio.
When reached Friday afternoon and asked about the new developments, Brittanee's mother, Dawn Drexel, said she was reeling from all sorts of emotion.
Dawn said it she could be close to finding closure based on the news, but "are you ready to hear what you're about to hear?" she asked.
She said it's tough adjusting to a possible turn of events, "knowing it is going to be a whole different story."
"I may have to accept I'm never going to see my daughter again."
Investigators ask that anyone with information call their tipline at the Georgetwon County Sheriffis Office. The number is 843-436-6058, and you can remain anonymous.
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