At least three people of interest have been identified in the case of missing high school student Brittanee Drexel, who disappeared nearly a year ago while on spring break with friends, authorities say.
Drexel, then 17, was last seen in Myrtle Beach, S.C., April 25, 2009, where she had traveled from her home in Rochester, N.Y., against her mother's wishes. Since then, no arrests have been made in connection with her disappearance.
Georgetown County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Neil Johnson said, "Three, possibly four, persons of interest have been identified stemming from tips the department has received."
Johnson declined to name the people, who have yet to be charged in connection with Drexel's disappearance. He would not say how they are believed to be connected to the investigation.
But on the nearly one-year anniversary of Drexel's disappearance, Johnson said he has little hope that the teen will be found alive.
"Based solely on the information we have right now, we do not feel like she is alive," Johnson said.
The missing girl's mother, Dawn Drexel, said she still believes her daughter is alive, and plans to head to South Carolina next week to continue to search for her.
"We're still hoping she's alive, yes," Drexel said. "I think it was a little premature and I find it appalling that [the police] don't think she's alive."
Drexel said that while authorities have given her little information about the people of interests, she believes they are locals from the Myrtle Beach area and not friends of her daughter's from New York.
"I think that Brittanee either could have been trafficked or someone is holding her against her will," Drexel said. "I'm hoping she'll be strong enough to get away or we'll be able to find her."
Even if authorities make arrests in the case, Drexel said, justice will not be served until her daughter is returned to her, dead or alive.
"We don't have our daughter, and we need to have her back before justice is served," she said.
What Happened to Brittanee Drexel?
Last seen leaving the BlueWater Resort, Drexel was captured on surveillance video visiting a group of Rochester-area men after having a falling out with the friends she'd originally accompanied to the popular spring-break destination.
Drexel had asked to go on the trip during her spring break from school with a group of older teens and young adults. Dawn Drexel said no, however, sparking a fight between the mother and daughter.
"I just told her 'No, I don't like the idea,'" Drexel said in an interview around the time of her daughter's disappearance. "I didn't know the people she was going with."
And, Drexel said, she didn't like the idea of her teenage daughter driving to Myrtle Beach without a parent in tow.
She said her daughter stormed off to a friend's house, saying she needed to cool down. She apparently defied her mother and went with her friends anyway.
"The last thing Brittanee said to me was, "I'll see you tomorrow, mom, I love you,'" Drexel said.
Asked if she had a message for her daughter now nearly a year after she last saw her, Drexel said that she hopes her daughter knows her family is still searching for her.
"If you can give a kind of hint or clue of where you are, please, try to get away," Drexel said, speaking to her daughter. "Please try to get away, we love you, we miss you and we want you back home with us no matter what the circumstances."