Brittanee Drexel: Is the FBI skeptical of its jailhouse informant?
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WHEC) — It was nearly three months ago that News10NBC was in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to mark 10 years since the disappearance of Brittanee Drexel.
On April 25, 2009, Drexel, a Chili teen, vanished while on spring break in Myrtle Beach. In 2016, the FBI said she fell victim to human trafficking.
In April, we broke new information about a second location in which a jailhouse informant claims he saw Drexel after she was abducted, but the FBI acknowledges it has yet to fully search that location and Drexel’s mother wants to know why.
"I don’t know why they haven’t done it. I know they should do it, " said Dawn Pleckan, Brittanee’s mother.
Several months after learning that her daughter may have spent her final days in a now-abandoned trailer, she can’t understand why investigators have yet to give the lead a legitimate look.
Last week, News10NBC’s Brett Davidsen spoke with Pleckan, who is left frustrated and confused.
"I have requested that these areas that we were looking at to be searched. I mean, the worst-case scenario is they are going to rule it out," said Pleckan.
Information about the trailer came from jailhouse informant Taquan Brown. Brown is in the McCormick Correctional Institution in South Carolina, serving 25 years for an unrelated manslaughter conviction.
News10NBC has spoken with Brown from prison over the past several months. He agreed to allow us to broadcast some of those conversations.
Brown told News10NBC he saw Drexel on at least four occasions shortly after she disappeared — first at a stash house in McClellanville, South Carolina, and then at a now-abandoned trailer in Jacksonboro, South Carolina. The trailer is about 130 miles away from where Drexel was vacationing in Myrtle Beach.
The trailer belonged to Brown’s cousin Herman, who has since died.
"She was sitting in his house in a recliner and she still had the black eye," said Brown.
Brown says he witnessed Drexel’s murder at the trailer. He claims he walked up to see a group of men outside with Drexel, including a man he only identified as "Nate."
"Nate shot her with a double-barrel shotgun…" said Brown."…after she was killed, some of her remains were buried in a garden area and after some time went by, they removed it from the garden area."
News10NBC spoke to FBI agent Don Wood about that lead.
"That’s a piece of information. As with all pieces of information we gather in this case, we’re assessing, looking into, evaluating," said Wood.
Investigators did visit the trailer briefly in April, but according to the FBI, the agency hasn’t returned to the property for a more thorough search.
But in a surprising turn of events, Pleckan says FBI agents recently told her they are going back and starting from the beginning.
"What their intention is to go ahead and go back to the beginning of her case and re-trace it and maybe go back to where, maybe they missed something in that time, in the time period, and say ‘oh my god, this puts this, this and this together,’" said Pleckan.
But in 2016, the FBI held a news conference saying they were confident that Drexel had been held against her will, sexually assaulted and shot to death.
"There’s been an exhaustive amount of evidence in this case. The investigators are certain that that’s what happened," said agent David Thomas.
It was a major development in the case. And that public pronouncement was based on information they received from Brown who says he took and passed a polygraph.
In a phone conversation from June, Brown told News10NBC he was questioned again in May by investigators and given another lie detector test.
He says they told him he was holding back information. So, does that mean the FBI no longer believes Brown?
Reached by phone on Thursday, agent Wood would only say they are continuing to evaluate all leads.
"I’m not sure what they believe. But, like I told you before, he has nothing to gain from this, so I don’t understand. Nothing should be discounted at this point in her case. Every lead needs to look into, every place that has to be searched, should be searched," said Pleckan.
Pleckan says she will continue to sound off until every last lead is chased down.
"Nobody knows what a family goes through when their child goes missing and you live in hell and that’s all it is."
The day after our report about the trailer aired in April, Pleckan marched into the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office and demanded a meeting in hopes of getting local authorities involved.
She says they promised to look into the Jacksonboro lead and call her back. She says they still have not reached out.