Family relieved to have child safe

After the rescue of Marissa Graham Friday, (L-R) Sam Raynor (fiance of Graham’s mother), Angela Graham (mother), Clovis Police Chief Dan Blair, Chris Graham (father) and Jessica Hoffman (father’s fiancee) met with media. (CNJ photo: Tony Bullocks)

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer

Though visibly exhausted, the parents of a missing 10-year-old girl recovered Friday in Clovis were in high spirits when they met with the media to share their relief and joy at the return of their daughter.

Marissa Graham’s parents battled poor road conditions to be reunited with their daughter, who was abducted Thursday night from Texhoma, Okla.

“(We’re) very, very happy. … It’s like a hundred thousand pounds lifted off all of us,” Chris Graham, her father, told reporters Friday night at the Clovis Police Department.

The Grahams chose to shield their daughter from the media, gathering in a conference room at the police department to answer questions about their experience.

Police say Marissa escaped unharmed from her abductor when he pulled over at an Allsup’s store on Mabry Drive.

The girl’s abductor remains at large, police said.

Chris Graham and Angela Graham, her mother, described their daughter as feisty and said knowing she is a fighter gave them solace that she would be OK as they waited for word of her safe return.

“She’s very strong willed. (She’s) just very strong willed – she’d never give up. She’d kick and scream and bite and give it everything she’s got before she’d give up, and she’d probably take a chunk of meat out of him before she’d (give up),” Chris Graham said.

He said he had confidence his daughter would never willingly go off with someone she didn’t know.

“She’s always known what people to talk to and what people not to talk to. … That’s why we were surprised she was abducted,” he said.

The family was uncertain of their plans for their return home because of a winter storm in the area but said they were simply glad to have their daughter back.

Clovis Police Chief Dan Blair talked about reuniting the family.

“We got the opportunity to watch a little girl that had been abducted be reunited with her family — that was something else,” he said, conveying the emotions shared by law enforcement at being part of a positive conclusion to the ordeal.

Pointing to a photo of Marissa Graham, he said, “and this little girl — that smile that you see on her face — that is her, 100 percent. I have never in my career probably been with the victim of a crime, especially that age, that is so positive.”

Blair declined to answer any questions about the case. He said the case has been turned over to the FBI.

The oldest of three children in her family, Marissa Graham was abducted near a park in Texhoma around 6:30 p.m. (CST) Thursday. The small town on the Texas-Oklahoma border is about 200 miles from Clovis.

Police searching for suspect
Police have asked for the public’s assistance in locating the suspect.

They believe people who were at the Allsup’s on Mabry Drive around 12:30 p.m.

Friday might have been witnesses to Marissa Graham’s escape.

According to a press release from Clovis police:

“Specifically, we are looking for information from three people who were conducting business at the Allsup’s store at about 12:30 p.m. One was in a white car at the gas pumps, one was in a pickup truck at the gas pumps and the third was in a dark-colored, four-door car parked in front of the store. …

“However, anyone who was in that area during this time frame, regardless of what they remember, is urged to contact Detective Max Stansell at 763-9456 or Lt. Rich Johnson at 763-9406 at the police department.”

Law enforcement officers are searching for a white male between 35 and 40 years of age with facial hair, a pasty complexion and possible brown hair.

The suspect could be driving a purple van or SUV, or the white four-door car, according to police.

— CNJ staff