Former cops speak out about case of teen missing in SC
May 3, 2011 at 2:38 PM EDT - Updated June 24 at 12:28 AM
MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - It's now been more than two years since New York teen Brittanee Drexel vanished along the Grand Strand.
The Drexel disappearance is a very complicated case. Drexel went missing back in April of 2009 in Myrtle Beach, but searches have taken the case as far as Georgetown and Charleston counties.
Now a group of people very close to this investigation is coming forward for the first time, to talk about what they say could be holding this case back.
Because this was such a huge case, back in 2009 each law enforcement agency assigned a lead investigator to be in charge of it, and to communicate with the other departments.
For Myrtle Beach Police, it was Vincent Dorio. For the Charleston County Sheriff's office Rocky Burke, and for the Georgetown County Sheriff's Office, the lead was Chris Bailey.
Several months later, a private group called Merrill's Investigations was brought in to help.
Steve Pickering of Merrill's, says they had additional resources that law enforcement needed, and they were volunteering those resources and time.
"Merrill's had started working down here with their canine team, and while they were down here working, they were presented with a unique opportunity to work hand in hand with the Georgetown Sheriff's Department to try to work this case," explained Pickering.
They say things were going great. Chris Bailey describes the momentum and chemistry they had from the very beginning.
"You took strangers," said Bailey, "I had never met Rocky before, never met Vincent before, and never met Steve or anybody else from Merrill's before the case, and in a short time, they were able to build a bond and trust."
With the help of Merrill's Investigations, Chris and Rocky say all the agencies were working side-by-side, gaining ground. They lived and breathed this case, working and developing new leads and getting very close to making some arrests.
In the summer of 2010, however, they say that all changed.
In June, Bailey was taken off the case completely for the Georgetown County Sheriff's Office. Just a few months later, the same thing happened to Burke at the Charleston County Sheriff's Office.
"Some new task forces were formed and my role was diminished," said Burke.
Around that same time, Merrill's Investigations was told, their services were no longer needed, says Pickering.
"I was told, our involvement had run its course, thank you very much, and if we need you, we'll call," Pickering explained. "No one's called me."
That's where they say the problem now lies. These guys who have been with the case from the beginning say they have now been shut out of the investigation.
"Compared to where this case was at the end of April, last year, I feel bad it hasn't progressed beyond that. We were going. We had a focus. We had a direction. We had everybody on board," said Pickering. "Everybody was in it because they could see the end, and then, it ended."
Bailey says he wishes there could be more communication between the old and new set of eyes on the case.
"The biggest problem that I see is when you do bring in a new set of eyes, you still should have some contact with the ones that was from the start, that has the knowledge of what's going on in the case," said Bailey. "The more information you have, the better off you are, in the long run of it."
Shortly after Bailey and Burke were taken off the case, they both retired, and are now employed by Merrill's Investigations.
This interview is the first time this group is coming forward to talk about it all. They say they are serious about solving this case - so serious that Pickering flew in from Maine, just to talk with WMBF News.
"We were invited to help, we wanted to help, and now we're vested in it," said Pickering. "We don't want to walk away from something. We don't want to leave it undone."
They don't want to point fingers, or place blame on anyone, but they want everyone involved to know – they're available, and willing to give of their time, their resources, and their knowledge of the case.
"You've got to at least be able to communicate with the other people that have done it for so many months prior to you even coming into it," said Bailey. "I mean when you look back to a year ago, they were a year behind already when they got reassigned to the case, so they're already trying to play catch-up now. Here we are another year later, and they're still playing catch up. It's there, it's right there."
Pickering agrees, saying more communication between Merrill's and other agencies could help solve it.
"Rocky and Chris probably know more about this case than anybody, and for them not to be a resource does hurt the case," said Pickering.
They say that if more would be done, the family might already have those answers. Bailey says an arrest in the Drexel case is possible.
"When you lay it out and you start looking at things, it's a lot easier to start connecting dots, and you just got to make the final connection on it," said Bailey," but everything is there."
Merrill's Investigations says they are still working this case and anything they find out they will pass along to law enforcement.
They wish everyone could work together, to gain back that momentum that they say was there during the early days of this investigation.
Myrtle Beach Police say they are working the case as hard as ever, and say they've never been shy about asking for help, if they were to need it.
The Georgetown County Sheriff's Office says they still have an investigator assigned to the case, and are still working very diligently on it.
The Charleston County Sheriff's Office says they no longer have a lead investigator in charge of the Drexel case.