Convicted sex offender charged in Bluffton woman's murder

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Convicted sex offender charged in Bluffton woman's murder

By ROB WILE rwile@islandpacket.com 843-706-8138
Published Thursday, August 12, 2010   |  903 Words  |  news

A convicted sex offender befriended by a young Bluffton couple has been charged in the woman's murder.
Darold Lavar Drayton, 32, was arrested by Beaufort County Sheriff's Office investigators Wednesday afternoon as he sat on the steps of the Bluffton Public Library and charged with Alexis Lukaitis' murder. The body of the 27-year-old mother of twin boys, who will be 2 next month, was found Monday on a rural road in Charleston County, a day after she allegedly traveled to Charleston with Drayton -- possibly to make an illegal purchase of prescription drugs, authorities say.
According to the unsealed affidavit filed in his arrest, Drayton, whose criminal history includes drug and armed robbery felony convictions, was found to have a deep slice wound on his right index finger and cuts and scratches on his chest, arms and hands at the time of his arrest.
An autopsy Tuesday revealed Lukaitis had defensive wounds on her hands consistent with a knife attack.
Lukaitis' fiancé, Michael Bartley, 32, of Bluffton, said Drayton, who often went by the name Darryl, was a former neighbor the couple became friendly with and who would sometimes ask for favors.
Investigators said Bartley told them that Drayton accompanied Lukaitis to Charleston on Sunday to pick up prescription pills, according to the affidavit.
"If you hang with bad people, sometimes you get blamed for their problems," Bartley said Thursday when asked if he thought his fiancé was going to Charleston to purchase the drugs illegally.
Maj. John Clark, a spokesman for the Charleston County Sheriff's Office, said investigators found evidence inside Lukaitis' car that led them to Stephen Edwards of Bluffton, Drayton's cousin. Edwards, who hasn't been charged, implicated Drayton in Lukaitis' death, he said.The affidavit states Lukaitis called neighbor and friend Shannon Hooper, 32, Sunday to say she was in Charleston with Drayton.
At about 7:45 p.m., Bartley said, Lukaitis called to say she was on her way back to Bluffton.
She never returned home.
At one point, when Bartley was attempting to contact Lukaitis, someone picked up her phone and then abruptly hung up, Hooper said.
Bartley reported her missing at 9 a.m. Monday morning.
By the time he contacted authorities, however, loggers had discovered Lukaitis' body on Old Jacksonboro Road. Drayton was already back in Bluffton, the affidavit said.
Early Wednesday, police located Lukaitis' 2001 Pontiac Grand Prix in the Oyster Factory Park parking lot.
According to the affidavit, investigators with S.C. Law Enforcement Division's Crimes Scene Unit found blood on the interior and exterior of the car, as well as on the inside of the car's trunk.
The spare tire, foam insert and trunk liner were missing from the trunk, the affidavit said.
Edwards, Drayton's cousin, told Beaufort County investigators that Drayton knocked on the back door of his home at about 7:30 a.m. Monday. Drayton asked to be driven to the hospital for a cut on his hand he said he received after getting into a fight in Beaufort.
When Edwards returned home, according to the affidavit, he discovered the spare tire, tire cover and other items splattered with blood in and around a trash can in his back yard.
A subsequent search of Edwards' home by Beaufort County investigators yielded a black diaper bag and other items consistent with those missing from Lukaitis' car.
Hoopersaid she knew Lukaitis, Bartley, and Drayton and that they were good friends.
"She was a great friend and mother," she said. "It still seems so unreal."
She said Lukaitis agreed to drive Drayton to Charleston on Sunday but she didn't know why.
She said she and Lukaitis knew Drayton had been in trouble with the law before but did not know enough about his past to give her pause about driving him to Charleston.
"We never knew he was like that," Hooper said. "He used to come over and eat dinner with us."
Drayton told Hooper and police he had nothing to do with Lukaitis' death and that Lukaitis never showed up at his house to drive him to Charleston.
The affidavit says Drayton told investigators he occasionally provided Lukaitis with pills.
Drayton was charged on an outstanding warrant for failing to register as a sex offender, the Sheriff's Office said. He was convicted in 2005 of committing lewd acts on a minor.
Drayton has three armed robbery convictions and multiple drug convictions dating to 1997, according to a SLED criminal background check. Police also charged him Wednesday with marijuana possession after they discovered he was carrying the substance.
Clark said Drayton was charged with murder Thursday.
"I'd like to see him sit in jail, to get the electric chair," fiancé Bartley said. "We have two children that I have to deal with. He took everything from me. That's all I had was her and the two kids."
Bartley said had he known about Drayton's criminal background, he would have kept Lukaitis away from him.
Drayton is currently being held in the Beaufort County Detention Center and is expected to be extradited to Charleston County, according to a Beaufort County Sheriff's Office release. The investigation remains active.
Cassie Foss of The Island Packet and Andy Paras of The (Charleston) Post and Courier contributed to this report.