True crime meets forensic science
Nov. 23, 2022

The Disappearance of Brittanee Drexel

The Disappearance of Brittanee Drexel 

Episode 18 of theWhat Remainspodcastis about the murder ofBrittanee Drexel, a young woman who disappeared during a spring break trip to Myrtle Beach in 2009. Despite national attention, the case went cold. Thirteen years later, a tip leads to her murderer and her remains. 

Solicitor Jimmy Richardson begins our interview by apologizing for being late. He ran into someone in the parking lot of the courthouse who needed a moment of his time, he explained. Having been a journalist in the south for the majority of my career, I get it, southern politicians are unfailingly polite. In fact, most southerners are unfailingly polite. They are also people who have storytelling burned into their DNA like the sweet tea and red clay that defines much of the rural south. 

Richarson weaves the tale about the Brittanee Drexel case like a an old timey storyteller in front of a campfire leaving no detail on the cutting room floor. He explains how he had been with the solicitor’s office in Horry and Georgetown Counties since 1998, and was a deputy solicitor when Brittanee was first reported missing from Myrtle Beach. Solicitor is the South Carolina version of a district attorney, the person who prosecutes criminal cases on behalf of the citizens.  

The mystery gets national attention 

For many reasons, Brittanee’s case went national—a pretty white girl missing from one of America’s popular spring break meccas. This put a lot of heat on investigators, local police, state police, sheriff’s deputies and FBI agents. They wanted to find her. They needed to find her to restore the innocence of this well-known family vacation spot. 

What was so frustrating about this case from the get-go was that there was surveillance video of Brittanee leaving a group of friends at one hotel and heading to the hotel where she was staying. The pictures of her were very clear. It wasn’t late, the street was packed with tourists, and yet, no one saw anything. And there would be no answers for thirteen years.  

“Worse things than dying” 

Jimmy says a cold case like this is like an octopus with multiple tentacles. Based on the tentacle you decide to go down, you either get answers, or you get nowhere. This is how he talks, in vivid metaphors. He always says: “There are worse things than dying.” Dying and having your body hidden forever from your family he says is one of those things... 

A tip led them to a hand-dug watery grave in a remote wooded area across from a small airport in Georgetown, South Carolina. There was a body, but was it Brittanee and if so, who put her there? 

In this episode ofWhat Remains, the search for Brittanee Drexel and the man accused of taking her life.