Brittanee Drexel's Boyfriend Refuses to Give Up Hope or Stop Searching

Family, friends in week two of search for N.Y. teen missing in Myrtle Beach.

May 1, 2009, 12:11 PM

May 7, 2009— -- The boyfriend of a New York teenager who disappeared during a spring break trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., said his belief that she's still alive keeps him motivated to keep searching "until we find her."

John Grieco, 19, said he's taken a hiatus from school and work to help Brittanee Drexel's family search for the Rochester, N.Y., teenager who vanished in the popular South Carolina beach town April 25 while on a spring break trip her mother had forbidden.

"My whole life in Rochester had Brittanee involved with it," Grieco said. "It's kind of hard to be in Rochester without Brittanee."

Brittanee Drexel, 17, was last seen leaving the Bluewater Resort, captured on surveillance video, where she had been visiting a group of Rochester-area men after having a falling out with the friends she'd drove down with.

Her family has expressed suspicion about the five young men, including one man who was friends with Drexel before the trip, but police said none of them are suspects at this time.

"Nobody's been cleared," Myrtle Beach Police Capt. David Knipes told "You don't clear anybody until the case is closed."

The five men have all since returned home to Rochester, but Grieco said he believes Drexel is still in the Myrtle Beach area, being held against her will.

"I think there was foul play," he said. I do not believe at all that she is a runaway ... or that she committed suicide."

Grieco described Drexel, whom he's dated on an off for the past 2½ years, as a "really strong-headed person" who would do what she could to escape if she were held captive.

It's that hope, he said, that keeps him motivated.

Brittanee Drexel's mother, Dawn Drexel, also in Myrtle Beach, told a Rochester-area news station that her daughter "may not be alive."

While the first week was spent handing out fliers and going door-to-door, Grieco said the team would likely be more organized this week, getting help from trained searchers who have joined the family, including Team Adam from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Texas-based Laura Recovery Center.

As attention on Drexel's disappearance intensified, some have been trying to take advantage of the public's concern. Grieco said people on more than one occasion had been going door-to-door asking for donations for the search and then pocketing the cash.

Police, he said, have been made of aware of the scammers.

The family is trying to raise money for search costs through its new Web site dedicated to finding Drexel.

Crime Stoppers of the Lowcountry, based in South Carolina, has offered a reward of up to $1,000 for information about Drexel's disapperance.

Police Searches Produce Few Leads

Police spent most of last weekend in Georgetown County, S.C., where Drexel's cell phone sent out a ping around midnight on the night she disappeared, but found no physical evidence that tied her to the area.

They have also been following up on leads from people who reported seeing a woman matching Drexel's description, "but nothing that has come to be valid," Knipes said.

And without any solid evidence, save for the Bluewater surveillance video and another brief sighting of her walking down the street before she got to the hotel that night, police are stumped.

There has been no activity on her cell phone or her ATM account since. Her friends, all interviewed by police, have since returned home.

"It could range the whole gamut from 'I'm a runaway' to 'I've been abducted and killed,'" Knipes said.

But Dawn Drexel is adamant that her daughter did not run away.

"I think something has happened to her," Dawn Drexel told earlier this month. "I just have a funny feeling. It's not like her to not call her family."

Drexel had been battling depression, her mother said, and had been recently put on medication. She had also been upset about family troubles, including the house that was in foreclosure and her mother's divorce from her stepfather who had raised Drexel since she was a small child.

Drexel had asked to go on the trip during her spring break from school with a group of older teenagers and young adults, but Dawn Drexel said no, sparking a fight between the mother and daughter.

"I just told her, 'No, I don't like the idea,'" Drexel's mother said. "I didn't know the people she was going with."

And, Dawn Drexel said, she didn't like the idea of her teenage daughter driving down to Myrtle Beach without a parent in tow.

Brittanee, she said, stormed off to a friend's house, saying she needed to cool down. She apparently defied her mother and went with her friends anyway.

Dawn Drexel said she didn't even know her daughter was in Myrtle Beach until her boyfriend called to say that her friends couldn't find her.

The Last People to See Brittanee?

One of the last people to see Brittanee was her friend Peter Broswick, one of the Rochester men who Brittanee visited at the Bluewater Resort Saturday night. According to the police report, two of the men told police she stayed only for about 10 minutes and left to return some clothing to another friend.

Knipes told that the men, including Broswick, checked out of their hotel between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. that night and drove back to Rochester.

Broswick told that he didn't have anything to do with Drexel's disappearance and that they'd been friends for about two years.

Broswick's lawyer, John Parrinello, told that Drexel began hanging out with the men after having several disagreements with the friends she was traveling with.

After Drexel left the hotel, Parrinello said, the men went to a nearby college party but left shortly after. Since they had to check out of the hotel the next morning anyway, they decided to just leave then and get a head start on their trip.

"All of these innuendos and inferences are to no avail," Parrinello said.

Parrinello said the car the men had been traveling in haf been searched and Broswick was scheduled to give a DNA sample at the request of the Myrtle Beach police.