Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
BAILEY — When 80-year-old Susie Boddie Graham fell ill a few years ago, her adult son moved back home to care for her.
“He was a real man, but he cleaned up around the house for me. He took care of me,” Susie Graham said of her son, James Calvin Graham Jr.
A 52-year-old divorced man, James Graham looked after his mother and enjoyed a quiet life in Bailey, a town of around 600 residents.
“I last saw him on a Friday,” Susie Graham told The Wilson Times on Wednesday. She began crying and couldn’t finish her story about the last time she saw her son alive.
James Graham left his mother’s home on Deans Street the afternoon of June 3, 2016. He never returned.
The next day, authorities found a burned-out silver 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix near Buckhorn Landing in rural Wilson County near Kenly. They launched an arson investigation.
James Graham didn’t show up for church. Then he didn’t report to his job as a forklift driver that Monday. When family reported James Graham missing, authorities tracked his cellphone to a wooded area off Cisterna Road, near Buckhorn Reservoir. There they found James Graham’s partially decomposed body June 8, 2016.
At the start of the investigation, Wilson County deputies utilized technical resources provided by the State Bureau of Investigation, said Wanda Samuel, sheriff’s office chief of staff.
The body discovery site isn’t far from where authorities found the burned-out Grand Prix, later revealed as belonging to James Graham.
The missing person report and the arson investigation became the same case: James Graham’s homicide.
An unknown assailant shot James Graham in the back, chest and head with large-caliber bullets, according the autopsy report authorized by Dr. Karen Kelly, a forensic pathologist at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine.
“The body was identified by comparison of antemortem medical records of surgical repair of the right Achilles tendon and the postmortem scar over the right Achilles tendon,” Kelly wrote in the autopsy report.
Family members said they don’t know of any reason James Graham would be in the area where deputies found his vehicle. It’s not clear whether he went there willingly or if his killer drove the Grand Prix to the remote location.
No arrests have been made.
Detectives continue to develop leads in the case, Samuel said.
“Within the past couple of months, we received additional information about the investigation,” Samuel said. “Those leads have taken us across state lines.”
Susie Graham said law enforcement mostly talks with other family members about the case because she can’t handle thinking about her son’s grisly fate.
“I don’t know what to think about it,” she said. “I try not to think about it. It hurts so much.”
‘HE WAS A GOOD SON’
Susie Graham has lived in Bailey most of her life. James Graham grew up the second to youngest child in a family of eight children about a block over from where his mother lives now.
“He wasn’t wild. He was a good son. All my children have been good to me,” Susie Graham said while wiping tears from her cheeks.
She sat on one of two sofas in her living room. The image of James Graham stared down from a picture hung over the hallway leading to the rest of the house. A commemorative plate with another photo of James Graham surrounded by heavenly clouds sat on a table near a window air conditioning unit.
James Graham left behind three children, two stepchildren and five grandchildren. His father, Harold Graham, died at 82 years old in 2018.
Samuel said detectives continue to follow up all information that’s provided.
“We are asking anyone with any information to contact the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office at 252-237-2118,” Samuel said.
UNSOLVED AND UNRESOLVED is an occasional series in The Enterprise’s sister publication, The Wilson Times, examining cold case homicides and unsolved deaths.