Although she has been missing for nearly a year, the family of Brittanee Marie Drexel hopes one day she will return.
"I just want to get her back," said her father, Chad Drexel.
The missing Rochester, N.Y., teen, who was then 17, was last seen April 25, 2009, on a hotel security camera in Myrtle Beach. She had gone to the Grand Strand on spring break without her parents' permission.
"Brittanee was my life. She did everything with me and I did everything with her," Chad Drexel said. Her mother, Dawn Drexel, said Brittanee is either dead, she is being trafficked or she is being held against her will. Chad Drexel doesn't want to consider the trafficking possibility.
"If that happened, she's being tortured. I would not want my daughter to go through that kind of torture," he said.
Dawn Drexel appeared on the "Today" show Friday to discuss her daughter's disappearance. She has worked tirelessly to keep attention focused on her daughter.
"They're not telling us much. I don't think they're close to an arrest. Who's to say that she is not still alive? We're remaining hopeful that she is still out there," she said.
Brittanee's aunt, Kerri Drexel of Bradenton, Fla., said police apparently are treating the case as a homicide. "How can they even say that when they don't have anything and nobody has been arrested?" she said.
The Georgetown County Sheriff's Office has identified at least three persons of interest in Georgetown and Charleston counties in its investigation of Brittanee Drexel's disappearance, said Lt. Neil Johnson. The department feels that the persons of interest are responsible for whatever happened to the teen, Johnson said.
"We didn't develop these guys last week. We've been looking at them for some time," he said.
The department has executed search warrants and conducted polygraph tests in its investigation of the teen's disappearance. Johnson gave no indication of how close investigators are to having enough evidence for arrest warrants. "We can make an arrest immediately. We can make an arrest next year," he said.
Johnson said he hopes that Drexel is alive, too, but the evidence so far does not support that. "This is solely based off what we have right now," he said.
Brittanee's parents are divorced but have united in their efforts to find their daughter. The family plans a candlelight service April 24 in Myrtle Beach to draw attention to the case.
Staying busy helps Chad Drexel keep a positive outlook. "The more you sit around, that's just when the mind goes crazy," he said.
Brittanee Drexel was not allowed to go to Myrtle Beach because of poor grades. She went anyway, telling her mother she was spending the weekend at a friend's house. "I did not know that she had left until I got the phone call that she was missing," her father said.
Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711 or email@example.com