Friend with checkered past charged in death of woman found on side of dirt road

Darold Drayton

A registered sex offender with a lengthy rap sheet is charged with murder in the death of a Bluffton woman who was found dead Monday on the side of a rural Charleston County road.

Charleston County sheriff's deputies today charged Darold Lavar Drayton, 32, of Bluffton with murder in the death of Alexis Lukaitis. The 27-year-old mother of twin boys was killed with a knife and left along Old Jacksonboro Road. Loggers found her body early Monday. Her car was recovered in Bluffton Wednesday morning.

Maj. John Clark said investigators found evidence inside Lukaitis' car that led them to a cousin of Drayton's. The cousin gave deputies a statement implicating Drayton in her death, he said. The cousin isn't charged.

Clark said evidence indicates that the pair were heading to Charleston to illegally purchase prescription drugs.

A woman who knows both Lukaitis and Drayton said Thursday that the three of them were good friends. She said Lukaitis agreed to drive Drayton to Charleston on Sunday but she didn't know why. The woman, who asked not to be identified, said she and Lukaitis knew Drayton had been in trouble with the law before but not enough about his past to give her pause about driving Drayton to Charleston.

"I would have trusted him enough. He was one of our best friends," the friend said of Drayton, who she and Lukaitis called "D". "The D we knew and the D being presented to us now were two different people."

Drayton has three armed robbery convictions and multiple drug convictions dating back to 1997. He was placed on the South Carolina registered sex offender's list in 2005 after he was convicted of committing a lewd act upon a child under 16, according to a State Law Enforcement Division criminal background check.

Deputies arrested Drayton on Wednesday afternoon on charges of simple possession of marijuana and for failure to register as a sex offender. Clark said the charges were upgraded to murder today. The friend said Drayton told her and police that he had nothing to do with Lukaitis' death. He told her that Lukaitis never showed up to his house to drive her to Charleston, the friend said.

Michael Bartley, Lukaitis' fiance, told Beaufort County sheriff's deputies that she left the house about 3 p.m. Sunday to drive a friend to Charleston.

Authorities say Lukaitis called Bartley about 7:45 p.m. Sunday night and told him she was about an hour away from home. That was the last anyone heard from her.

Loggers found her body about 12 hours later. Her white 2001 Pontiac Grand Prix was nowhere to be found until a Bluffton police officer found it about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday in a restaurant parking lot on Bridge Street.

Bartley reported Lukaitis missing to Beaufort County sheriff's deputies about 9 a.m. Monday when she didn't come home or return his phone calls, McIntosh said.

Bartley and Lukaitis have twin boys who will turn 2 years old next month on Bartley's birthday. Both Bartley and Lukaitis were both originally from the New Jersey area and had known each other for years when they decided to follow his parents down to Beaufort County a few years ago, friends said.