Arrest planned today in death of Modesto woman

etracy@modbee.comAugust 5, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    Erin Tracy
    Title: Breaking news reporter
    Coverage areas: Breaking news, crime
    Bio: Erin Tracy started working for The Bee in September 2010. She has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University and previously worked at the Daily Democrat in Woodland and the Times-Standard in Eureka.
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    On Twitter: @ModestoBeeCrime
    E-mail: etracy@modbee.com

On what would have been Eldoris Graham's 29th birthday, her boyfriend will be arrested in connection with her death.

Anthony Coxum, 36, is suspected of killing Graham, who'd been missing nearly a month when her body was discovered by a bystander and unearthed by detectives from under the footbridge at Creekwood Drive and Claus Road in mid-January.

Authorities plan to arrest Coxum today in North Carolina, where he is incarcerated on an unrelated charge.

"My daughter's birthday has always been a happy and a sad day for me," Graham's mother, Kathie Patterson, said Monday. Patterson's mother died on Graham's first birthday.

"When I heard that Mr. Coxum's time was going to run out on that particular date, it brought a ray of sunshine into my darkened life," Patterson said. "I will look forward to the day in which he is prosecuted, found guilty and he never sees the daylight and he never has the opportunity to hurt another woman's child."

Coxum was arrested in North Carolina in late December, charged with a probation violation and remained incarcerated at the Orange Correctional Center. Today, he will be transferred to the Hillsborough County Jail in North Carolina and booked as a fugitive from justice, according to Modesto police Detective Mike Hicks.

Coxum still is in North Carolina because he is fighting extradition to California. Hicks completed a governor's warrant for his arrest on a charge of murder to get Coxum back to Stanislaus County; it awaits a signature from Gov. Jerry Brown.

Patterson reported her daughter missing Dec. 15 when she failed to show up to work. She last spoke with her two days earlier, when Graham told Patterson that she and Coxum were going to the Bay Area.

When Graham didn't arrive at work, Patterson called Coxum, who told her they'd gone to Oakland for a few nights, but wouldn't name the hotel where they stayed.

The next day, Coxum gave Christine Perry, a friend of Graham's, two versions of what they did Dec. 13, according to a search warrant.

He first said they'd gone to Applebee's and then a movie in Modesto before she dropped him off in Oakland the day of her disappearance. In the same phone conversation, when he retold the story of the evening's events, Coxum said he and Graham went to Panda Express and then to a laundromat, the search warrant states.

Coxum told Patterson he thought her daughter had gone to Detroit, where she had lived before moving to Modesto.

When interviewed by a Modesto police community service officer assigned to Graham's case, Coxum continued to give different versions of the last day he was known to be with Graham.

He told Perry that Graham sold her car to a "short Mexican," but told the community service officer he took Graham's car and left her in Oakland to be picked up by friends who would drive her to Detroit. Coxum had Graham's car when he was later arrested in his home state of North Carolina.

Cell phone records indicate Coxum and Graham never left Modesto that day.

Graham's cell phone activity shows she was in the area of her home on Tully Road just after 8 p.m. Dec. 13, but during a three-minute call around 8:30 p.m., her cell phone connected to several other antennas that suggest she was traveling east on Briggsmore.

Starting at 9 p.m. and continuing for about 30 minutes, Graham's cell phone made or received a half-dozen phone calls, which connected to two antennas that serve east Modesto. Coxum's father, Anthony McNeill, lives in the 700 block of Carrboro Lane in east Modesto, just one block from where Graham's body was discovered. The antennas Graham's phone connected to serve the area of McNeill's home, the search warrant states.

A mother's unending anguish

Beginning at 4:30 the next morning, all incoming calls to Graham's phone went directly to voice mail and did not connect to any antennas, indicating that her phone was powered off.

The 4:30 a.m. call was made from Coxum's phone from the area of their apartment on Tully. Later that morning, Coxum's cell phone activity suggests he left Modesto and went somewhere near the Mexican border before turning around and going back north to Fullerton, where he spent the night, according to the warrant. His path continued east the next three days. He got on Interstate 40 in Arizona and took it all the way to North Carolina. He arrived at a childhood friend's home in Fayetteville, N.C., on Dec. 19.

According to the warrant, Coxum's friend heard him call his mother and tell her, "If anyone calls, let them know I'm not in North Carolina." After hanging up, Coxum allegedly said to himself, "The b---- is dead. That b---- is dead. I killed her." A week later, Coxum's friend called police to report what he had heard.

Deputies arrested Coxum for an unrelated probation violation and he was sentenced to 200 days in jail.

Meanwhile, in California, homicide detective Mike Hicks interviewed McNeill, who denied seeing his son Dec. 13. He said he was working in the Bay Area making deliveries for the trucking company for which he worked. But McNeill's employer said he didn't work that day or the next, and the truck McNeill leased remained parked both days.

A month later, Graham's body was found buried under the overhang of a footbridge at Creekwood Drive and Claus Road. Her hands and feet were bound together with duct tape. She also had duct tape around her legs and neck. She'd been stabbed once in the chest.

Patterson said the pain of her daughter's death is sometimes so overwhelming that she shuts herself off from the world. She said she moved from her home in Modesto shortly after Graham's funeral because she didn't feel safe.

Her emotional distress is compounded by physical ailments, but to heal, Patterson said, "I pray a lot, I meditate a lot, I talk to my friends and I have them pray for me because I need the strength to see this through and see justice."

Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at etracy@modbee.com or (209) 578-2366. Follow her on Twitter, @ModestoBeeCrime.

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