Man pleads not guilty to murder in Modesto girlfriend’s death

10/01/2013 6:22 PM

10/01/2013 10:28 PM

A man accused of stabbing his girlfriend and burying her body in a shallow grave in eastern Modesto pleaded not guilty to murder during his arraignment hearing Tuesday.

Defendant Anthony Coxum, 37, also denied enhancements added to his murder charge in the death of 28-year-old Eldoris Graham. The enhancements could lengthen his sentence if convicted.

Coxum’s bail amount became an issue during Tuesday morning’s hearing as attorneys discussed the circumstances of the alleged crime and the defendant’s capture in North Carolina.

A criminal complaint charging Coxum with murder was filed in late July, but it took authorities more than a month to bring him back to Stanislaus County.

Deputy District Attorney Beth O’Hara Owen asked the judge to set the defendant’s bail at $5 million. She said in court that Coxum stabbed Graham, buried her body and left Modesto.

Coxum was arrested on suspicion of murder while in custody at a North Carolina jail, where he was being held on an unrelated charge of violating probation.

The prosecutor argued that Coxum’s bail amount should be high, not only because of the nature of the alleged crime, but also because the defendant fought extradition from North Carolina. Owen also pointed to Coxum’s multiple probation violations as a reason for a high bail amount.

Nancy Smith, Coxum’s court-appointed attorney, told the judge her client has a right to fight extradition and that the prosecutor’s request for bail seemed “excessive.”

Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Nancy Ashley agreed with the prosecutor and set Coxum’s bail at $5 million. She scheduled the defendant to return to court Nov. 4 for a pretrial hearing.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Coxum remained in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail.

Coxum was the last person to have seen Graham in December, and he told different stories about what they did together before she went missing, including a drive to Oakland, according to a search warrant filed in court Feb. 4. Cell phone records indicate Coxum and Graham never left Modesto that day.

Graham had been missing nearly a month when her body was discovered by a passer-by in January and unearthed by detectives under the pedestrian bridge at Creekwood Drive and Claus Road, near Johansen High School.

Her hands and feet were bound with duct tape, according to the search warrant. She also had duct tape around her legs and neck. She had been stabbed once in the chest.

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