Cousin of victim found in coffin: 'He didn't deserve this' - New York News

Cousin of victim found in coffin: 'He didn't deserve this'

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Philmon Tapaha and Brandi Hoffner Philmon Tapaha and Brandi Hoffner
Philmon Tapaha Philmon Tapaha
Alan Matthew Champagne Alan Matthew Champagne

A FOX 10 Exclusive

PHOENIX - Earlier this week, two bodies were found in a coffin in the backyard of a Phoenix home. For the first time, relatives of one of the victims faced our cameras to talk about how painful the discovery was for their family.

We're talking about a very tight knit family. They're Native American, so traditionally they don't talk to the media.

But Philmon Tapaha's cousin says they agreed to do this interview because they don't want people just to remember him as a victim.

"It is very heartbreaking," says Amanda Tapaha-Clayton.

He went missing back in July of 2011. For nearly two years, Amanda Tapaha-Clayton and her family believed they would find her cousin Philmon alive.

"Traditionally we're not allowed to speculate the loss of someone so we never at any point had the thought that he had already passed."

His body and the body of his girlfriend Brandi Hoffner were found inside a makeshift coffin Tuesday. It had been buried in a Phoenix backyard.

"Unbearable naturally with any loss, Philmon just wasn't anybody or nobody. He's one of 14 boys who raised all of us younger sisters, he was a father figure to most of our children."

Police arrested Alan Champagne for the murders. He was the prime suspect all along, but investigators hadn't been able to locate the bodies until now.

Amanda declined to talk about Champagne.

"We do ask that you respect our traditions and our values, that there are reasons we can't answer things, anger, hate are not part of our vocabulary, that's why we choose not to speak on it," she says.

She says her cousin was a loving person, and he didn't deserve this.

"I don't think there will ever be a moment where we don't hear his voice echo in our ears, there's plenty of times we still hear that."

Champagne is behind bars on a $1 million bond.

A car wash in honor of Philmon Tapaha will be held Sunday at the 7-11 parking lot near Mill Avenue and Baseline. It will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo Branch under the name Hilda Tapaha.

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