Judge orders boyfriend to stand trial in Modesto woman’s death

05/01/2014 8:47 PM

05/01/2014 9:33 PM

After authorities unearthed the body of Eldoris Graham from a shallow Modesto grave, investigators discovered she had been stabbed five times in her face, neck and chest.

Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Nancy Ashley on Thursday determined there was enough evidence for Anthony Coxum to stand trial on a charge of murder in Graham’s death.

The judge scheduled Coxum to return to court May 15 for an arraignment hearing. The defendant remains in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail with his bail set at $5 million.

Authorities believe Coxum stabbed Graham, his girlfriend, and buried her in the shallow grave under a pedestrian bridge at Creekwood Drive and Claus Road, near Johansen High School in east Modesto.

Before Coxum’s preliminary hearing concluded with the judge’s ruling, investigators and a Stanislaus County forensic pathologist testified about what they uncovered in the case.

Sung-Ook Baik conducted the autopsy on Graham. He testified Thursday afternoon that he found two stab wounds, one on each of Graham’s cheeks.

The pathologist found another two stab wounds, one on each side of Graham’s neck. Baik said those wounds were each about 4 inches deep. The other stab wound was in her chest.

Modesto police Detective Mike Hicks returned to the witness stand Thursday morning for his cross-examination. The detective said authorities never found the knife used to stab Graham, and he didn’t know of any forensic evidence that links the defendant to his girlfriend’s death.

Hicks also said investigators did not find any fingerprints on the duct tape wrapped around Graham’s head, neck and hands. Investigators also searched for blood at Graham’s Tully Road apartment, where a struggle could have taken place. But Hicks testified they did not find any blood or evidence indicating blood was cleaned up at the Modesto apartment.

During cross-examination, the forensic pathologist said the stab wounds to Graham’s jugular vein and her lung would have caused extensive bleeding. He also said the lung wound would have produced internal bleeding.

Baik testified that he could not determine the time of death or whether Graham was bound with the duct tape and a white linen material before she died because of the decomposition on the body. He said he found a few superficial cuts on Graham’s left hand to indicate there was a struggle and that she tried to defend herself when she was stabbed.

Graham’s body was found about 500 yards away from the home of Coxum’s father. Coxum used to live in his father’s garage before he moved into Graham’s Modesto apartment on Tully Road. Coxum’s father told the detective that he was missing a shovel, according to Hicks.

The detective testified that investigators did not find any blood from Graham at the father’s home. Hicks said Thursday that the defendant’s father told him that a box-cutter also was missing from his home.

Coxum was the last person to have seen Graham on Dec. 13, 2012, and he told different stories about what they did together before she went missing, including a drive to Oakland. Cellphone records indicate Coxum and Graham never left Modesto that day, according to Detective Phillip Weber.

The detective analyzes phone records for the Modesto Police Department. During cross-examination Thursday afternoon, Weber said Coxum could have been in Oakland as he said if he didn’t use the phones the detective analyzed.

Weber also testified that phone records show that after 9 a.m. Dec. 14, 2012, Coxum traveled from Modesto to near the Mexican border before spending the night in Los Angeles. The following day, he started a road trip to North Carolina.

Graham was missing for about a month before her body was found. Coxum was arrested in North Carolina about two weeks after his girlfriend went missing. He drove to North Carolina in Graham’s beige Pontiac Bonneville.

Coxum’s father said he had made some repairs on the Pontiac, and his son was in the process of buying the car from Graham, according to Hicks.

In North Carolina, Hicks questioned Coxum after his arrest. He testified that Coxum told him that he believed a drug dealer with the street moniker “Pac Man” might have killed his girlfriend.

Coxum also said his girlfriend smoked marijuana, bought drugs from the defendant and sold drugs to her friends, the detective said during cross-examination.

It was Coxum’s longtime friend, Frederick Elliott, who told the detective that Coxum said he killed his girlfriend and that she had tried to steal money from Coxum. Hicks testified he didn’t find evidence that supported the claim that Graham tried to take $1,000 from Coxum.

The pathologist testified that toxicology found no drugs in Graham’s body, but that the body’s decomposition could have affected the accuracy of the drug analysis.

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