(MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina) – The family of the man who was previously named a suspect in the 2009 disappearance of 17-year-old Brittanee Drexel from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, says the investigation has ruined their lives for years.
Timothy Taylor has been named by the FBI as a suspect in Drexel’s 2016 disappearance, ABC Charleston affiliate WCIV reported. An informant told FBI agents he saw Taylor, who was 16 at the time of Drexel’s disappearance, and others sexually abusing Drexel at a home in McClellanville, South Carolina, about 60 miles away. south of Myrtle Beach.
Drexel was on a spring break when she disappeared.
On Monday, authorities announced that Raymond Moody, 62, had been arrested for the murder of Drexel after his remains were found in a wooded area in Georgetown County, South Carolina, last week.
Timothy Taylor’s mother, Reverend Joanne Taylor, has for years insisted her son was innocent, saying the teenager spent time in church, had a strict bedtime and could not have being implicated in the murder of Drexel.
When federal agents named Timothy Taylor as a suspect, he was in federal court on charges unrelated to a 2011 robbery at a McDonald’s.
He was convicted of state and federal armed robbery and was sentenced in 2019 to three years probation.
The FBI told WCIV on Monday that Taylor was no longer a suspect in Drexel’s disappearance after the arrest of a man who had been named a person of interest as early as 2012. The part that included the investigation into the involvement Taylor’s alleged “has been concluded,” the FBI spokesperson said.
“We are confident that with Moody’s arrest, we have the man responsible for Brittanee’s murder,” the FBI spokesman told the station.
At a press conference on Thursday, Taylor’s family and friends expressed how devastating the investigation had been.
“Following up on investigations is one thing, but deliberately and intentionally turning them into strange fruits that hang before the justice system on the hand of a hammer, and unjust investigators are definitely unjust,” Reverend Lawrence Bratton said. “This family has been devastated, ruined over the past 15 years, emotionally, psychologically, financially and in every way you can imagine down to the next generation.”
An FBI spokesperson did not immediately respond to an ABC News request for comment on the family’s statement.
Bratton said that even though the criminal justice system had let them down, the community, as well as groups such as the National Action Network, the NAACP and the Interfaith Ministerial Alliance, stood firm with the Taylor family.
“How do you do that? How do you take a family, devastate it and walk away and say no harm, no foul,” Bratton said in response to the FBI’s announcement that Timothy Taylor had been cleared.
Reverend Joanne Taylor said while the family’s heart goes out to Drexel’s loved ones, her son was “suspected without any credible evidence of a crime he did not commit” and “maintained his innocence in the face of the relentless pursuit of local and federal law enforcement, investigators and the media.
“The years of fighting accusations, false accusations and the media frenzy shooting at us have traumatized us, affecting every aspect of our lives,” she said. “It publicly questioned our family, the character of our families, for no reason, and it shook us to the core.”
Timothy Taylor did not show up for the press conference with his family.
Drexel traveled to Myrtle Beach from her parents’ home in the Rochester, New York, area in April 2009, although her mother denied her permission to go, Melissa Drexel told ABC News. She was last seen on April 25, 2009 on hotel surveillance camera as she left a friend’s room at the Blue Water Resort to walk back to the hotel where she was staying – about a mile and a half walk along Myrtle Beach’s bustling strip, ABC Rochester station WHAM reported.
His remains were found less than 3 miles from a motel where Moody was living at the time of Drexel’s disappearance, Georgetown County Sheriff Carter Weaver said.
Authorities said Moody buried Drexel’s body, but did not respond to questions about how Drexel’s remains were found.
Moody is being held without bond in the Georgetown County Jail and is expected to be charged with rape, murder and kidnapping, Horry and Georgetown county attorney Jimmy Richardson said Monday.
“Last week we confirmed that Brittanee had tragically lost her life at the hands of a horrific criminal who walked our streets,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Susan Ferensic said Monday during a briefing. a press conference.
In 2012, Moody was identified as a person of interest in the disappearance, but there was insufficient evidence to single him out as a suspect, officials said.
Although Timothy Taylor’s name has been cleared, his “name and face will forever be linked to Brittanee Drexel,” his mother said.
“I call on law enforcement to end the practice of releasing unfounded leads and names of potential suspects without credible evidence,” she said. “Doing this has real consequences and a lasting scattering effect on so many people, especially us black families.”
ABC News’ Ben Stein contributed to this report.
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