The FBI and local authorities in South Carolina have conducted a new search for clues in the 2009 disappearance of missing teenager Brittanee Drexel, and they’ve reportedly found enough information to advance the case.
On Sunday, while leaving a search site in Georgetown, South Carolina, where investigators used K-9 dogs and an excavator to hunt for evidence, the FBI told reporters that authorities had made “progress” in the case.
“We’ve been here three days, as this is where the investigation has taken us,” said Don Wood, a supervisory agent with the bureau, the Democrat & Chronicle reports.
“We’re not going to discuss what we found and what we didn’t find,” Wood told the Post and Courier. “But I’m confident in telling you that the investigation was advanced. We made strides in bringing those responsible for Brittanee’s death to justice.”
(The FBI did not return messages seeking comment.)
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Starting on Friday, law enforcement officials were in Georgetown searching for answers in the disappearance of the 17-year-old Drexel - who traveled from upstate New York to Myrtle Beach for spring break eight years ago without her parents’ permission.
She was last seen on a hotel security camera on April 25, 2009.
Drexel’s mother, Dawn Pleckan, tells PEOPLE she learned on Friday that authorities were conducting a search related to her daughter’s case.
“We are awaiting any news that may come in the near future,” Pleckan says. “I am just emotionally drained. I am tired because I haven’t slept much.”
“Right now, we are waiting for a resolution on Brittanee’s case,” she continues. “Eight years is too long.”
In August, an FBI agent testified in court that authorities believe Drexel was kidnapped, gang-raped, fatally shot and then thrown into an alligator pit near McClellanville, South Carolina, which is about an hour and a half south of Myrtle Beach.
The family dismisses these allegations and neither man has been charged. No other suspects have been publicly identified.
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On Friday morning, authorities began their search in Georgetown, which is about 55 minutes south of Myrtle Beach and a half hour from McClellanville. They concentrated on a wooded area and open field off of Foxfire Court, a gravel road just outside of city limits, the Post and Courier reports.
Officers cleared nearly an acre of woodlands littered with debris and signs of a former dumping ground at the end of the street, The Sun News reports.
Last summer, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies conducted searches in McClellanville, which yielded similar results to what investigators found during the recent three-day search, according to the Post and Courier.
As investigators continue to probe what happened to Drexel, her mother thanked the public for their support and patience.
“Just continue to pray,” she says.
To help the parents of other missing children, in November, Pleckan started Brittanee’s Little Angels to provide long-term advocacy services and support to families of missing children and human trafficking victims.
“I know how hard it is to go through something like this,” she told PEOPLE. “There is no handbook for when a child is missing, but we can help other families through it.”