January 12, 2013

Body found near Johansen is that of missing Modesto woman

The body discovered Friday night near Johansen High School is that of a Modesto woman who had been missing since mid-December, authorities said.

The body discovered Friday night near Johansen High School is that of a Modesto woman who had been missing since mid-December, authorities said Saturday night.

Eldoris Christine Graham had been declared missing since Dec. 15 when her worried mother called police saying her daughter had not shown up for work. Her mom said she last spoke with her daughter two days before.

On Dec. 27, her live-in boyfriend, Anthony Devon Coxum, 36, was arrested in North Carolina while driving Graham's vehicle. He was arrested there on a probation violation, according to Lt. Rick Armendariz of the Modesto Police Department.

A few days before his arrest, Modesto detectives interviewed Coxum about Graham's disappearance. He told detectives he dropped Graham off in the Bay Area. As the investigation continued, Armendariz said Coxum's statements became inconsistent and he became less than forthcoming with information.

On Friday night, police converged on Claus Road at Creekwood Drive at about 7:30 p.m. after a woman in the area called to say she saw a "suspicious object" and what she believed to be a body, Armendariz said.

When police arrived, they discovered a body under the pedestrian bridge on the busy intersection's southwest corner. The area is secluded because of large shrubs and trees.

An initial statement Friday night by police included the term “grave site.”

And a resident of nearby Waddell Way, whose home is separated by a sound wall from the area where the body was found, said investigators used that term when asking neighbors if they had seen or heard anything suspicious.

“They called it a grave,” said James Reyes, who added that he’d told police he didn’t hear anything odd because there’s always a lot of noise from the roadway behind the home.

Police are not now using the word “grave,” and Armendariz said investigators will not be releasing information on the condition of the body or the crime scene because the case is ongoing.

Investigators have been working steadily since the discovery of Graham’s body “and will continue to do so now that it’s transitioned from a missing-person case to homicide," the lieutenant said Saturday.

The identity of the body was confirmed Saturday by the Stanislaus County Coroner's Department.

Coxum remains in custody in North Carolina for unrelated probation violation charges and has remained uncooperative with investigators, Armendariz said.

Graham's mother, Kathie Patterson, told The Bee early this month that 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 earlier this month.

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.

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."

An autopsy will be conducted on Monday, Armendariz said.

Because the case is now an active homicide investigation, detectives will not disclose any more information at this point, Armendariz said.

Scene from discovery on Friday night

2013 Stanislaus County Homicide Map

View Stanislaus County 2013 Homicide Map in a larger map

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