Episode 086: Alexis Ware

August 7, 2023

A young mother drops off her children then vanishes into the night, leaving a trail of mysterious clues behind her.

Episode Media
Alexis Dyshee Ware (Anderson County Sheriff’s Office)
Alexis with her red Honda Accord (Dateline)
Route Alexis is believed to have taken on January 30, 2022 (Google Maps)
Episode Sources
Episode Transcript

Welcome back to Bite-Sized Crime. This week I’m bringing you a mysterious case from my home state of South Carolina. This episode discusses sensitive topics, so listener discretion is advised.

On the evening of Sunday, January 30, 2022, 29-year-old Alexis Ware pulled into the parking lot of a 7-11 gas station in Anderson, South Carolina. Alexis had arranged to meet up with her ex-boyfriend, TJ Patterson, so he could take their 2-year-old son Tra’vell and Alexis’ 9-year-old daughter Nayomi. It was a pretty routine swap: Alexis got the children settled into TJ’s car, filled up the tank of her red Honda, then got in her vehicle and turned onto Highway 29, following right behind TJ.

But then, Alexis did something strange. When they reached a red light, Alexis suddenly hit the gas, maneuvering around TJ’s vehicle and speeding off, taking a quick right turn before disappearing from sight.

TJ was surprised; Alexis had told him she was going to follow him to his mom’s house. Was she in a hurry? But when TJ got to the house, there was no sign of Alexis. He tried calling her cell phone several times, but there was no answer, and eventually it started going straight to voicemail.

Maybe TJ had misunderstood – maybe Alexis was going to her mom’s house instead. TJ called Alexis’ mom to see if she knew where her daughter was, but Alberta said she didn’t. She had spoken to her daughter earlier that day, but Alexis had been at home in bed. When TJ explained how Alexis had sped off and disappeared, Alberta was just as confused as he was.

But Alexis was a grown woman, and her children were safe in TJ’s care, so the family tried not to worry. However, Sunday turned into Monday, and then into Tuesday, and still, no one had heard from Alexis. Every text went unanswered, and every call went to voicemail. Her cousin Kayla told Fox Carolina, “She always answers. Like, even if I call at three in the morning, she always picks up the phone.”

Finally, the family couldn’t wait any longer. They contacted the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office and reported Alexis missing.

Within 24 hours, Alexis’ face was on the local news, accompanied by a picture of her bright red Honda Accord. The sheriff’s office reached out to neighboring counties, asking their patrols to keep a lookout for the vehicle and for Alexis. They wouldn’t have to wait long.

On February 2nd, just hours after the story hit the news, police in McCormick County received a call about a bright red car that had been abandoned on the side of a dirt road. According to the property owner, the car had been sitting there for several days, but they had assumed it belonged to one of the loggers working in the area. When they saw the news reports about Alexis and her red Honda, they immediately called it in.

Soon, the area was flooded with law enforcement. Silcox Road was a logging road – a dirt lane surrounded by woods, no houses or businesses nearby. It came to a dead end just before a muddy creek. No one would drive down that way unless they were familiar with the area. But there on the side of the road, covered in mud, was a bright red Honda Accord with Alexis Ware’s license plate. Alexis was nowhere to be seen.

Officers photographed the scene and inventoried the items in the vehicle: Alexis’ cell phone, wallet, keys, a few lottery tickets, and a bag full of clothes. On the ground outside lay her black hair bonnet, the same one she had been wearing at the 7-11 just three days earlier.

Search and rescue teams began a grid search of the immediate area surrounding the vehicle, K-9 units leading the way. But there was no sign of Alexis, no trail to follow. The red Honda was eventually impounded and towed back to the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office.

While the car was being processed, investigators began searching for answers: Why had Alexis suddenly sped off without explanation? How had her car ended up on a dirt road 70 miles south of Anderson? Why had she left all of her belongings behind? And above all, why hadn’t she contacted her family?

The first step for detectives was to build a profile, to dig into Alexis’ life and possibly find some clues that might explain her sudden disappearance.

Alexis came from a large, tight-knit family and had friends all over the Greenville-Anderson area. She was a talented hairstylist and had lately been branching out into makeup artistry and fashion, lining up photoshoots and events with clients. Alexis also had aspirations of becoming a model and had been building up her social media presence over the last few years. She had a large circle of personal and professional connections all the way from Charlotte to Greenville to Atlanta.

Detectives sat down with Alexis’ immediate family, and together they established a timeline of the week leading up to her disappearance. What they uncovered would only make the case that much more mysterious.

According to Alberta, her daughter had recently been making plans for a big move. Alexis wanted to go all out with her business; she had gotten approved to break her lease in Greenville so she could move to Atlanta and open a boutique and salon. She had already purchased clothing racks and was starting to stock up on supplies and merchandise. Alberta said that Alexis wanted to make a better life for herself and for her kids, and she believed that this was the way to make it happen.

But in the days leading up to her disappearance, Alexis had been acting strangely, talking about things that gave her family cause for concern.

During the last weekend in January, the family had all been hanging out in Anderson as they often did, but it was clear that something was wrong with Alexis. Alberta told Dateline, “It wasn’t the Alexis that we’re used to. I knew that something was going on with her — something was freaking her out.”

Alberta said that Alexis kept talking about her upcoming 30th birthday, but not in her usual excited way. Typically Alexis made a big deal about her birthday, getting her outfits together months ahead of time and making elaborate party plans. The family expected nothing less for her 30th, but this time, Alexis seemed in a panic. “She said stuff like she didn’t feel like she was gonna make it to see her birthday.”

Her brother Travis told News Nation that while Alexis kept repeating that she wouldn’t live to see her 30th birthday, she had also made some odd social media posts that have since been deleted. “They were not her norm.”

On Saturday night, Alberta remembers her daughter crying, afraid that something bad was coming. “She sat here and cried. She wasn’t telling me exactly what was going on… It’s like she knew something was going on. She felt like something was gonna happen to her.”

But Alexis did confess that she thought she was being followed. And the entire weekend, her phone was ringing off the hook, multiple calls from the same number. Alberta told Dateline, “She didn’t know who it was and she was like, ‘Look, look: How [does] this number keep getting through? I have it [blocked].’ And she would go to her block list and it actually showed me this number being in her block list. When I asked her who it was, she called him the devil.”

Naturally, Alberta was alarmed by this, concerned by her daughter’s obvious fear of whoever this mystery person was. She convinced Alexis to stay a bit longer in Anderson, to not go back to Greenville just yet. “She had agreed to stay. But then when she decided to go, she was like, ‘I’m OK.’ She really fooled me because she did her hair, she did her makeup, she put lashes on, she got herself showered and dressed. She was looking really nice. And she was, I guess, trying to make me believe that she was OK. And in my mind, I’m like, ‘I can’t really force her to stay.’”

Around noon on Sunday, Alexis left the family weekend and made the 30 mile drive back to her apartment in Greenville. A few hours later, Alberta called to check on her. “I saw that she was laying in her bed because I did a video chat. She answered right away and she was laying on her bed taking a nap.”

But in the middle of their chat, Alexis suddenly noticed that a black truck was parked outside of her apartment, and she told her mom that she thought they were watching her. Alberta urged her to call the police, which she did. According to The State newspaper, Alexis waited until she saw the responding patrol car leave, then she ran downstairs and got into her red Honda. It’s unclear if she left the apartment complex at that moment or where she went if she did, but the next sighting of Alexis was four hours later at the 7-11 in Anderson where she handed over the children to TJ.

Because TJ was the last person to see Alexis, detectives spoke with him at length, trying to figure out what he knew or if he was somehow involved. According to TJ, Alexis had called him on Sunday evening as she was driving from Greenville to Anderson and told him that she was running low on gas. He told her if she could make it to the 7-11 on Highway 29, he would meet her there and fill up her tank. It was around 7:00 when Alexis pulled in; TJ paid for her gas, took the kids, and then they both drove off.

Investigators pulled the surveillance video from the gas station to confirm TJ’s story, and everything seemed to be exactly as he’d said. There was no indication that they had argued or that Alexis had been acting strangely. The footage showed Alexis’ red Honda leaving the gas station and speeding away at the red light. TJ’s alibi checked out too, and he was eventually cleared by investigators. TJ told WISTV, “Lex is my heart, you know? I love her to death. That’s my son’s mother. We all want her home.”

The next step for investigators was to track Alexis’ movements digitally. The gas station video confirmed that Alexis had left the 7-11 shortly after 7pm on January 30th. Her red Honda was next spotted by cameras at an apartment complex in Anderson, but no one knew why Alexis would have stopped there. Alberta even went to the apartment complex with Alexis’ picture, knocking on doors and talking to residents. “Everybody that we talked to said that they didn’t know her and they didn’t know why she would be there.”

At 8:15pm, Alexis’ cell phone pinged 30 miles south of Anderson in Abbeville, South Carolina. Later that night, traffic cameras showed the red Honda traveling across the state line into Augusta, Georgia, then coming back into South Carolina a short while later.

Although investigators have not released exact timestamps for Alexis’ movements that night, what we do know seems to indicate that after stopping by the apartment complex for whatever unknown reason, Alexis traveled south down Highway 28 from Anderson towards Augusta. Alberta told Dateline that she remembered Alexis saying that she was planning to go to the state lottery office in Augusta on Monday. “She was going to the main corporate office. I don’t know if she had winning tickets or not, but she had several tickets. And she had an appointment that she had made to go to the headquarters.”

Based on this information, it seems reasonable to assume that Alexis was purposefully heading towards Augusta on Sunday night, likely to check on her lottery tickets the next day. But something caused her to turn around and drive back towards Anderson. Unfortunately, she didn’t make it there, and her car ended up abandoned on a dirt road in McCormick County.

The family believes that Alexis knew she was in danger in the days leading up to her disappearance, and that she may have been trying to protect her children from that threat by handing them over to TJ.

Alberta told Dateline, “That Sunday, when she was getting dressed, she was talking about her kids and she said, ‘Mom, I have to put my kids first. Lord forbid something happens to me with my kids in the car with me.’… So when I found out that she had given the kids to TJ, the first thing that came to my mind was that she did what mothers do to protect their children. She felt like there was something wrong. She felt like she was being followed. I felt like when he said she hit the gas and sped away from him — I feel like she created a separation between her children and herself. She wanted her children out of harm’s way.”

Investigators believe that Alexis may have met with foul play. The fact that all of her belongings – including her lottery tickets – were left behind in the car suggests that robbery wasn’t a motive for whoever she may have run into that night. And it’s extremely unlikely that Alexis would have turned off the highway onto a remote dirt road, then walked away from her vehicle without taking her purse or her phone.

For Alberta, one of the most glaring red flags is the fact that Alexis’s black hair bonnet was lying on the ground outside of the car. “When she was at the gas station, that was on her head. So if it came off… the first instinct that you would do as a woman is pick it up and put it back on… That right there is enough to say that there had to be some kind of scuffle to take place.”

Since Alexis disappeared in January of 2022, investigators have conducted extensive searches of the area where the red Honda was found, pulling together search teams from across the state. But multiple ground, water, and air searches have turned up no sign of Alexis.

Detectives from both McCormick County and Anderson County have been working together on the case, following every lead and exploring every theory, no matter how far fetched. In March of 2022, the FBI field office in Columbia joined the team, providing more resources and putting a fresh set of eyes on the case.

But time passed, Alexis’ 30th birthday came and went, and her family was no closer to getting any answers. However, they refused to let go of their hope. They organized their own searches and continued to spread the word about Alexis’ case. They reached out to Senator Lindsey Graham and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, requesting more resources for the investigation. In June of 2022, the Black and Missing Foundation donated a billboard to help bring awareness to the case. Alberta told WSPA, “Just putting it out there, it’s giving me that hope. It’s giving me something to hold on to… I just feel like somebody out there has some information. Somebody knows something and we just want to keep the light shining.”

On the one year anniversary of Alexis’ disappearance, the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office renewed their commitment to solving the case. In a press release, they outlined the actions they had taken so far. “To date, multiple agencies… have combed through miles of terrain by air support, K9 and cadaver units, and search and rescue teams. Countless hours of interrogating, interviewing and investigating continue to uncover invaluable information as recently as last week. We unfortunately receive hundreds of false tips that detectives must take time to eliminate. These pranks not only waste resources but give the family a helpless feeling. We appreciate any concrete, factual information from the community and ask for compassion toward Alexis’ family.”

Lead detective Jason Fowler told The State, “I remain positive, and it’s my hope and belief that Alexis is alive. It’s important for me to work every day to locate her and bring her safely home to her children.”

Alexis Ware was last seen on January 30, 2022 at the 7-11 gas station on Highway 29 North in Anderson, South Carolina. At the time of her disappearance, she was wearing jeans, a purple shirt, black jacket, black Crocs, and a black hair bonnet. She has dimple piercings and multiple tattoos, including a feather on one hand and a cheetah pattern on her shoulder. She is approximately 5’6” tall with black hair and brown eyes.

If you have any information about the disappearance or whereabouts of Alexis Ware, please contact the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office at 864-260-4405 or call CrimeStoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC. There is a $5000 reward for information leading to her recovery.