MODESTO — A missing Modesto woman's mother doubts she will be found alive. Her best friend already is referring to her in the past tense.
No one but the woman's boyfriend, Anthony Coxum, has seen or heard from her in more than three weeks and he has given police conflicting statements about what happened to her.
Kathie Patterson reported her daughter Eldoris Graham missing on Dec. 15 when she failed to show up to work at the Burger King in Salida.
A few weeks after giving Modesto police inconsistent information, Coxum was found in possession of Graham's car when he was arrested in North Carolina on Dec. 27 on a probation violation.
While the circumstances are suspicious, Modesto police Lt. Rick Armendariz said there are otherwise no signs of foul play or evidence of a crime.
But Graham's mother, Kathie Patterson, said Coxum was abusive and had threatened to kill Graham on several occasions, including the day before her disappearance.
"I fear this man viciously killed her," Patterson said.
She said Coxum moved into her daughter's apartment about four months ago right after they started dating. She said Coxum never paid for rent or food and controlled Graham with violence.
Graham never made any allegations of abuse to Modesto police but officers went to their apartment once in November for a security check requested by Patterson, Armendariz said. Police found no evidence of a crime at that time, he said.
Coxum has a 2011 conviction in North Carolina for assault on a woman and false imprisonment, according to public records.
Graham's best friend, Christine Perry, said she thought Coxum was overbearing and controlling, but didn't know whether he physically abused Graham.
What Perry is certain about, though, is that Graham wouldn't leave town without telling her friends and family.
"We were like peanut butter and jelly," she said. "The holidays have come by and gone and she would have called."
The last call Graham made from her cell phone was on the evening of Dec. 13, when she phoned her mother to say she was going to the Bay Area with Coxum.
In a message saved on Patterson's phone from that day, Graham tells her mother she "had to get away. We are both stressed out."
Perry said she spoke to Coxum on Dec. 16 by phone while she was at the Modesto Police Department; an officer listened in on their conversation.
Concern turned to fear for Perry as said as she listened to Coxum's story about Graham change multiple times.
"First he said she had gone home in her car, five minutes later he said she had sold her car, five minutes later she was supposed to be coming back to Modesto," Perry said. "I started crying at the police station because I knew he was lying."
About the same time, Armendariz said, Coxum told investigators he dropped Graham off in the Bay Area, but changed his story about where he dropped her off.
Patterson wants Coxum charged with a crime, but Armendariz said at this point there is no evidence that one occurred.
"We have had cases where people have gone missing and it turns out they elected to have gone missing on their own free will," he said. "For us to come to any conclusions right now would be irresponsible."
While detectives continue their search for Graham, Coxum remains in jail in North Carolina.
Police are asking anyone with information regarding Graham's whereabouts, to call Detective Michael Hicks at (209) 342-6132. People also can call Stanislaus Area Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward. Tipsters also can text information to Crime Stoppers by sending a text message to 274637. Just type "TIP704" along with the message.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209)578-2366. Follow her on Twitter, @ModestoBeeCrime.