Former high school standout charged in sexual assault on two teens

Tray Nichols
Tray Nichols

A former Beaufort High School football standout is behind bars after investigators say he crashed a sleepover last month at a home on St. Helena Island and forced two 15-year-old girls to have sex with him.

Tray Nichols, whose legal name is Kenneth Travon Nichols, was charged last week with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, an offense that carries a possible jail sentence of up to 30 years. Nichols, 18, is being held without bond at the Beaufort County Detention Center, according to the county's jail log.

Investigators say Nichols showed up uninvited to a sleepover at a home on Orange Grove Road on St. Helena Island, according to a Beaufort County Sheriff's Office incident report. There, three girls were spending the night in a vacant mobile home near the home of one of the victims.

When one of the girls went to get her cell phone charger from a back room, Nichols followed and closed the door behind them, according to the report.

Despite her crying and telling him to stop, the girl said Nichols didn't listen and forced her to have sex with him, the report said.

Once she was allowed to leave the room, the victim said she went to find a knife to make Nichols leave the trailer.

It was at that time, according to the report, that Nichols then pulled a second girl into the room and forced her to have sex with him.

In interviews with investigators, Nichols claimed the sex with both girls was consensual and that the pair "had the night planned out," according to the report.

The incident went unreported for more than a week until the first victim asked her mother to take her to Beaufort Memorial Hospital on Sept. 20, complaining of pain, the report said. A nurse at the hospital notified authorities.

The victim said she didn't report the incident because "I didn't want to hurt (her mother), and knowing (Nichols') background, I wanted to be protected," according to a hand-written statement to investigators.

Nichols has a prior arrest in Beaufort County, according to the jail log. In May, he was charged for ill treatment of animals and for violation of a county ordinance that is not disclosed on the jail log. He released on his own recognizance the day of the arrest. It is not clear from court records if he was ever tried on those charges.

Attempts to reach Nichols' family Friday was unsuccessful.

During the 2008 high school season, Nichols recorded 73 tackles, six sacks, one interception and three touchdowns as a two-way starter under Eagles coach Mark Clifford, who said he was "shocked and saddened" by the news of Nichols' arrest.

Nichols earned all-area and all-region honors and accepted a scholarship to play for Division II Newberry College. He was expected to compete for playing time at outside linebacker, but his former high school coaches and teammates say they think he left the team before the start of the season. He is not listed on the football roster on the Indians' athletics Web site.

Several attempts to reach Newberry's sports information director on Friday and Saturday were unsuccessful.