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Brittanee Drexel talk of the town in McClellanville, concern growing

Kim Wiggins, who lives and works in McClellanville, said she is concerned about the recent news that the FBI said Brittanee Drexel was killed there. (Summer Dashe/WPDE)

People in the town of McClellanville were shaken up Thursday, after news broke that FBI agents believe missing spring breaker, Brittanee Drexel, was killed there.

The 17-year-old went missing in April of 2009 from Myrtle Beach.

This was not the first time the search from Brittanee Drexel led police to the tiny town, located between Charleston and Myrtle Beach.

That's where FBI agents said the teen was taken and held against her will for several days before she was killed.

Just days after Drexel went missing in 2009, investigators got a tip that led them to the North Santee River in the South Georgetown County area. That was also the last place her cell phone pinged a nearby tower the night she went missing.

Volunteers even went door-to-door in Georgetown County looking for tips. CrimeStoppers offered a $1,000 reward, but the search was soon called off.

That was until December of 2009 when cadaver dogs and dive teams were called back out to Georgetown County after a new tip. That search also turned up nothing.

One McClellanville man remembered crews searching his family's property.

"When they were doing the search and stuff they actually came on our property and looked all around our property because we butt up right to the Frances Marion," Ronnie Pitts said. "It was very concerning. They were on horseback and ATV's and all that."

Police have had several persons of interest over the seven years since Drexel went missing.

One McClellanville man was even charged with kidnapping in 2010 after he was accused of trying to take a different woman out front of the same Myrtle Beach hotel where Brittanee Drexel was last seen.

That charge was eventually dropped.

The epicenter of the investigation refocused to McClellanville after the FBI's announcement Wednesday.

The population of McClellanville is only about 500, but buzz surrounding Brittanee Drexel's killing sounded loudly.

At the Shell Gas Station and General Store in McClellanville, those entering could be heard chatting about the case.

"That's very scary," Payton Muller, a local teen, said.

The cashier, Kim Wiggins, explaining the girl had been held in town for, "a couple days before they killed her."

Muller and another customer were shocked to hear there were no suspects.

Normally, you wouldn't hear much in those parts. McClellanville is just a stop on the map for most people, but, as it does in small towns, news spread quickly.

"Knowing that there's somebody right here," Wiggins, said, is unsettling.

The local spots were loud. Restaurants like T.W. Graham & Co. full of customers. That's not unusual, but talk of a murder is unusual.

"The rumors I've heard from some of the local teachers," Larry Mellichamp, born and raised there, explained. "Kids in the school brag about knowing who did it."

That's why FBI agents interrupted the quiet to focus on new tips.

"Everybody here knows everybody and something like that hardly ever happens here," Ronnie Pitts, who's family owns land in McClellanville, said. "It never happens here."

Gas stations and diners alike were filled with noise.

"It's very concerning because nine times out of ten we don't even lock the doors around here, " Pitts said.

The community was hoping, above the noise, someone would speak up with answers.

"You know, nobody wants to live in a town where there's a murderer or no telling what went on," Pitts explained. "We'd all like to know more of what's going on."

For a town so quiet the sound of concern was booming.

That is exactly what FBI agents were hoping would happen. They said on Wednesday someone in the town knows something and that person needs to come forward.

The FBI is not saying what evidence the agency has that leads it to believe Drexel is dead. The Drexel family attorney, though, said a body has still not been found.



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