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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina man whom federal investigators have questioned about the disappearance of a New York teenager eight years ago pleaded guilty Wednesday to unrelated federal robbery charges.
Timothy Taylor, 26, of McClellanville submitted his plea as prosecutors told a judge he failed a lie detector test while being questioned about the disappearance of Brittanee Drexel of Rochester, New York.
Drexel was 17 in 2009 when she was last seen during spring break at Myrtle Beach. Authorities believe an informant who said Drexel was gang-raped and killed and her body was thrown into an alligator-infested swamp. Her remains have not been found, and no one has been charged in her case.
Prosecutors want Taylor to spend at least 10 years in prison.
The Post and Courier of Charleston, meanwhile, reported that Judge David Norton told Taylor he is still considering whether the second round of federal charges violates Taylor's civil rights and should be thrown out.
The FBI began looking at Taylor's possible connection to Drexel after the informant spoke to police. Prosecutors reviewed the 2011 robbery at a Mount Pleasant McDonald's where Taylor was the getaway driver.
One of the two men who went inside shot and wounded the manager and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. The second robber was sentenced to up to six years, while Taylor got probation.
That was wrong because Taylor was the mastermind who recruited the two other men and planned the robbery, prosecutors said in court papers.
The failed lie detector test proves Taylor knows what happened to Drexel, said prosecutors, who will ask for 10 to 20 years in prison when Taylor is sentenced at a later date on one count of using a firearm in a violent crime.
But Taylor's lawyer said he can't tell them what he doesn't know.
"The problem we ran into is that Mr. Taylor had no involvement," attorney Mark Peper said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Winston Holliday said there is still time for Taylor to tell authorities what he knows, and prosecutors will consider that help favorably at his sentencing.