Bluffton -- Michael Bartley and Alexis Lukaitis always planned to get married.

They met as neighbors in Gloucester Township, N.J., just outside Philadelphia, and dated for more than a decade, though he was five years older.

The two were together long enough that Lukaitis' father, Joseph, considered Bartley part of the family.

"We've been together longer than most people," Bartley said Friday.

In 2005, the couple decided to get out of New Jersey and start a new life.

They chose Bluffton because Bartley's parents, who declined to comment for this story, had moved there about a year earlier.

When Lukaitis became pregnant with twin boys in 2008, the couple abandoned immediate thoughts of wedding cake and bridal gowns for baby formula and diapers.

"Everything happened so fast," Bartley, 32, said. "We'd always planned it, but when can you take the time to get that stuff going?"

That's a question that will never be answered now.

Sometime between Sunday night and Monday morning, Bartley lost his fiancé.

And twins Evan and Scott lost their mom.

Alexis Lukaitis, 27, was found stabbed to death early Monday on Old Jacksonboro Road in Charleston County.

Darold Lavar Drayton, 32, of Bluffton, a convicted sex offender and one-time friend of the family, has been charged with her murder.

Bartley said Lukaitis knew Drayton well. He was a neighbor of theirs for about a year in the Lakes at Myrtle Park community.

Drayton, Lukaitis and another neighbor, Shannon Hooper, spent time together while Bartley watched the kids.

"It was a circle of friends," he said. "I would hear them talking and laughing, then she'd come home."

But there was much neither Bartley nor Lukaitis knew about their former neighbor, Bartley said.

They were unaware of his three armed robbery convictions.

They didn't know he had multiple drug convictions dating to 1997.

And they were unaware he was required to register as a sex offender because of a 2005 conviction for committing a lewd act upon a minor.

Bartley said he has received overwhelming support from friends, family and the community.

The daycare center where Bartley plans to enroll Evan and Scott said the boys' first month there comes without a charge.

Bartley's sister, Susan Hudgins, is starting a fund for the boys at First Federal Bank.

For the next few weeks, Bartley and the boys plan to stay at his parents' house in Bluffton.

Living in his old apartment, he said, would be too painful.

"I can't go back there," he said. "It's just eerie. The memories, the pictures on the wall. ... I couldn't bring my kids in there. They'd just keep waiting for (Lukaitis) to come in."

Because they are so young -- the twins turn 2 next month -- and just beginning to talk, he hasn't told the boys anything.

Perhaps he doesn't have to.

It's been almost a week since they've seen their mother, and they can tell something is wrong, Bartley said.

The story of what happened to their mother can wait.