MODESTO — Modesto police on Wednesday searched a home one block from where a missing woman's body was found last week. The house, according to neighbors, is rented by the family of the victim's boyfriend, Anthony Coxum.
Eldoris Graham's body was found in a shallow grave near the footbridge at Creekwood Drive and Claus Road on Friday evening.
Coxum was the last person known to have seen Graham alive in mid-December when she told her mother they were going to the Bay Area, a story about which Coxum later gave conflicting statements, authorities say. He was found in North Carolina in Graham's car Dec. 27 and arrested on an unrelated charge of probation violation. He remains incarcerated.
Modesto police have been unresponsive to multiple requests for information about the case, including Wednesday after the search.
Detectives have not publicly said Coxum is a suspect in Graham's death, but neighbors near Carrboro Lane and Waddell Way, where the search warrant was served, said detectives went door to door with a picture of Coxum, asking if they recognized him.
One woman said an officer referred to Coxum as "their main suspect" and said his family lived at the house being searched in the 700 block of Carrboro. She said they were looking for a second suspect but didn't say who.
"They ran along our front yard, along our side gate with guns drawn," the woman said. She, like everyone The Bee spoke with in the neighborhood Wednesday, asked not to be identified. "They were there for a good while and they left with all their evidence bags."
A woman who answered the door of the home police searched said she did not want to comment.
Graham's mother, Kathie Patterson, has been convinced all along that Coxum is responsible for her daughter's death. Police have no record the relationship was violent, but Patterson said Coxum was abusive and had threatened to kill Graham the day before she last talked with her daughter.
The last time Modesto police commented on the case was Saturday, the day Graham's body was identified.
Patterson said she wasn't allowed to view the body at the coroner's office until Tuesday, and then only from a distance and behind a window. She said the bruised face of the woman on the table looked nothing like her daughter and she couldn't come to terms with what police were telling her.
Patterson said she demanded to see her daughter's body, but was denied. She got her opportunity Wednesday night at Evins Funeral Home.
"Now that I've seen her, that is my child," she said after the viewing. "I had to see her because I needed closure. Mothers are going to be in denial. I wanted to look at her feet, I wanted to look at her abdomen, I wanted to look at her breasts. All I wanted to do was look at my child one last time."
Patterson did not discuss specifics about Graham's injuries, but said, "it appears that she was tortured."
Patterson decided to make Graham's funeral open to the public and had wanted to have a viewing as a statement about what she says are the consequences of domestic violence.
A representative of the funeral home said she appreciated Patterson's intentions, but an open casket wouldn't be appropriate given the circumstances.
"I want girls to understand the trickery and how men get into their mind so they are rendered helpless and terrified of them," Patterson said. "If a man calls you the 'B' word, he has lost respect for you, kick him to the curb. If he shows you anger, kick him to the curb."
An obituary for Graham described her as cheery, with a zeal for life and a passion for helping others. "It was this loving nature that drew many to her," it reads. "It was this trusting nature and willingness to nurture that led to her premature and untimely death."
Services for Graham will be held Jan. 25 at 11 a.m. at the Modesto Special Event Center, 1113 Fifth St.
After her funeral, Graham's family wants her remains shipped to her home state of Michigan to be buried. A memorial fund has been established to help pay for those expenses.
Donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 1411, Modesto 95353-1411 or made at Valley First Credit Union, 3401 Dale Road.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2366. Follow her on Twitter, @ModestoBeeCrime.
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