Police: Suspect sold victim's ring day after Lukaitis' murder

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Police: Suspect sold victim's ring day after Lukaitis' murder

By CASSIE FOSS cfoss@islandpacket.com 843-706-8125
Published Sunday, September 26, 2010   |  1292 Words  |  news

The day after a Bluffton woman was stabbed to death, her body dumped beside a rural dirt road in Charleston County, the 32-year-old man accused of killing her sold her engagement ring, according to a Beaufort County Sheriff's Office report.
Darold Lavar Drayton was charged with murder Aug. 11 in the stabbing death of Alexis J. Lukaitis, a 27-year-old mother of twin 2-year-old boys. Her body was found Aug. 9 on Old Jacksonboro Road, a day after she traveled to Charleston with Drayton. They made the trip to illegally purchase prescription drugs, some of which were for her own use, according to the report.
In the days after Drayton was charged, an employee at a Bluffton jewelry store told Beaufort County investigators a man matching his description -- young, clean-cut, soft-spoken and black -- came into the store at about noon Aug. 9 trying to sell a diamond ring he said he found at a Chevron gas station in Bluffton, according to the report.
The jeweler told deputies he encouraged the man to sell the ring on eBay or to a friend, because the jeweler could give him only half of what the ring was worth. Drayton said he didn't care and took the money, the report said.
The ring was Lukaitis' diamond engagement ring, according to deputies, who retrieved it from the store and turned it over to Charleston investigators. Lukaitis' fiancé, Michael Bartley, 32, of Bluffton, said the setting -- three large diamonds surrounded by smaller gems -- was worth about $5,000. Investigators told Bartley they would return it after Drayton's trial, he said.
"It's being held for evidence," Bartley said, "but he hasn't confessed to anything."
"I'm following this every step of the way," he said of the case. "I have to see it through."
The jeweler, who later identified Drayton in a photo lineup, said he noticed a large cut on his finger. When asked about it, Drayton said he injured it while using a saw to cut a fence, the report said.
Drayton had a deep slice on his right index finger when he was arrested, according to his arrest warrant. He also had cuts and scratches on his chest, arms and hands.
Lukaitis had been stabbed in the chest and her throat had been slit, according to the warrant. Although Charleston County Deputy Coroner Dottie Lindsay said her office is awaiting results from an autopsy, the warrant revealed Lukaitis had defensive wounds on her hands consistent with a knife attack.
<strong>'SHE FELT SHE NEEDED THEM'</strong>
Bartley said this week that Drayton promised Lukaitis prescription pills and gas money in exchange for taking him to buy the pills. Bartley also said he knew Lukaitis was using the drugs but didn't think she was addicted to them. He said she always was responsible and calm, not out of control.
"Unfortunately she did use them and I knew she did," said Bartley, adding that doctors prescribed Percocet after her 2008 Caesarean section.
"They cut it off and she still felt like she needed them," he said, "so she started getting them from her friends."
Drayton, whose criminal history includes distribution of crack cocaine, assault and battery, and two armed-robbery felony convictions, also was convicted in 2005 for committing lewd acts on a girl under 16 years old, according to records from the 9th Judicial Circuit Court, which includes Charleston and Berkeley counties. The incidents occurred between November 2003 and January 2004, when Drayton was 26, according to court records.
Drayton is being represented by Ashley Pennington, head public defender for the 9th Circuit. He is being held without bond in the Charleston County Detention Center, according to court records. A date for a bond hearing has not yet been set, according to the Public Defender's Office.
<strong>'NEVER SAW ANYTHING COMING'</strong>
Drayton's friends and relatives say they were aware of his criminal past, but they do not believe he is capable of taking a life.
Larry Jordan, 32, a friend since the two were in grade school together in Bluffton, said he saw Drayton on Aug. 8, the day he and Lukaitis allegedly traveled to Charleston together. The men chatted briefly and played a game of chess, Jordan said.
"He looked fine. He was calm and seemed cool," he said. "He had some problems and was a bit of a rolling stone, but I never saw anything like this coming."
Drayton, who also went by Darryl or "D," moved back to Bluffton from Charleston in 2005, his cousin Brittany Powell said.
About a year ago, his mother, also of Bluffton, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Doctors said she had a month to live, but she died within a week, Powell said.
"It was really shocking and unexpected," Powell said. "He had a hard time dealing with it, but he never was violent with anyone. He really didn't seem like he could hurt a fly. We still don't understand or believe he could do this."
Drayton had stayed at Jordan's home in Bluffton after a break-up six months ago with his on-and-off girlfriend of three years, Jordan said.
"If he was upset or depressed, he never said it," Jordan said. "He wasn't a violent person, and I never saw him with a weapon of any kind. It's hard for me to believe he was involved in this."
Some people close to Drayton said he was using drugs, his health had begun to decline and he had lost weight, but Jordan and Powell said they never saw him use anything except marijuana. They said he made a living doing lawn care and other odd jobs, but didn't sell drugs.
Drayton met Lukaitis through their mutual friend Shannon Hooper, who also is friends with Jordan.
Lukaitis and Bartley lived in an apartment next door to Hooper -- an apartment that was downstairs from Drayton's ex-girlfriend at Bluffton's Lakes at Myrtle Park community, Bartley said. Attempts to reach the ex-girlfriend were unsuccessful.
Drayton stayed with his ex-girlfriend and her son periodically during the past three years but was never a resident at the complex, according to Hooper.
Jordan said he met Lukaitis through Hooper and Drayton this spring.
"For me it was really close to home," Jordan said of the murder. "I never thought that something like that would happen to her or that he would be accused of it."
Melanie Kelly, who lives across the hall from Drayton's ex-girlfriend, called him a "normal," quiet guy.
"He apparently was very good at hiding his past and keeping it from people," Kelly said.
About two weeks before the fatal stabbing, Kelly found Drayton on the state's online sex-offender registry, she said. She told his ex-girlfriend, who had already split from Drayton, about his conviction.
"(His ex-girlfriend) felt so responsible for introducing him into people's lives who lived here, so she has been apologizing to people in the building," Kelly said. "It wasn't her fault; he would have been friends with Alexis anyway."
<strong>CHANGED LIVES</strong>
On Wednesday, Bartley celebrated his 32nd birthday, one he shared with his sons, Scott and Evan, who turned 2.
The family has since moved out of the apartment and in with his parents, who are helping watch the boys now that Bartley has returned to work at a Savannah car dealership.
The children remain confused about their mother's absence.
"They still grab her picture and look at it," he said. "Every day it's tough. They say it gets easier with time, but it hasn't yet."