During a three week period in 2017, nine victims were slain by a suspected serial killer and now police say they have the suspect in police custody.
Crimefeed reports that Phoenix authorities announced at a press conference on January that they have charged Cleophus Cooksey, Jr. 35, with the murders.
The suspect, the grandson of Tucson civil rights leader Roy Cooksey, was arrested in December 2017 and charged with first degree murder in the slayings of his mother Rene Cooksey and his stepfather Edward Nunn.
Investigators told reporters that though the use of advanced ballistics techniques they were able to link Cooksey to multiple fatal shootings in Phoenix, Avondale and Glendale. The investigators were able to implicate the suspect so quickly because of new program that allows forensic scientists to immediately process and share ballistic results within hours instead of weeks.
According to police, unlike most serial killers who stick to a particular M.O. (modus operandi) Cooksey was an alleged “equal opportunity killer” — targeting multiple races and genders from ages 21 to 56. All of the victims were shot.
According to Crimefeed, police said the murder spree investigation began November 27 at 10:35 p.m. when Andrew Remillard, 27, and Parker Smith, 21, were found dead together in a motor vehicle.
On December 2, Salim Richards, 35, of Phoenix was the next to be slain when he was out walking in the early evening hours.
On Dec. 11, Jesus Real, 25, was fatally shot in Avondale. According to the police, the victim’s sister was Cooksey’s ex-girlfriend.
Next on the suspect’s alleged slay list was Lattorie Beckford, 29, on December 13, and Kristopher Cameron, 21, who was said to be conducting a drug deal with Cooksey on December 15.
An hour later, Maria Villaneuva, was kidnapped. She purportedly got into a car with Cooksey under unknown circumstances. Her corpse was discovered showing evidence of a sexual assault.
On December 17, officers responded to a reported domestic disturbance. When officers entered the home, they discovered Cooksey covered in blood with his mother and stepfather’s body inside the domicile.
As he was being cuffed, Cooksey reported yelled, “I’m the strongest man alive!” and allegedly threatened to cut the arresting officer’s throat.
When he was booked on the murder charges, Cooksey reportedly claimed that he “did not know what occurred,” requesting a lawyer, according to court records.
Time reports that shell casings, DNA, stolen jewelry and a cellphone taken from a victim were among the evidence used to link Cooksey to the other killings.
“It should appall every one of us… that he managed to kill nine people period, let alone in such a period of three weeks,” Sgt. Jonathan Howard, a Phoenix police spokesman, reportedly said.
Cooksey, an aspiring rapper, had previously served 16 years in prison for manslaughter and armed robbery. He had been back on the streets for 18 months, law enforcement authorities said.
The police investigation remains ongoing as Cooksey may be linked to more crimes.
[Feature image: Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office/Cleophus Cooksey, Jr.]