Homicide suspect linked to nine murders in three weeks: Police

Alex_Schmidt/iStock/Thinkstock(PHOENIX) — A homicide suspect in Arizona is accused of committing nine murders in just three weeks, Phoenix police said Thursday.

Cleophus Cooksey Jr. has been in custody since the last of the nine alleged killings on Dec. 17 when police say he shot and killed his mother and stepfather.

But after he was arrested, police kept “digging,” Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said, and discovered seven other fatal shootings in the area they say are connected to Cooksey.

The nine homicides spanned from Nov. 27 to Dec. 17 in Phoenix and nearby Avondale and Glendale, police said.

Here is the timeline of crimes, according to police:

Nov. 27: Two men — Andrew Remillard and Parker Smith — were found dead in a car in a parking lot. A motive has not been determined.

Dec. 2: A man identified as Salim Richards was walking when he was shot dead. Witnesses have told police that Cooksey and Richards knew each other, but that has not been confirmed by investigators. Property was stolen from Richards including a handgun, police say.

Dec. 11: A man named Jesus Real was shot dead in an Avondale apartment complex. Authorities have determined Real’s sister had a relationship with Cooksey.

Dec. 13: A man named Latorrie Beckford was shot dead at an apartment complex. Police said Cooksey was in the complex earlier and possibly had contact with the victim. The motive is not clear.

Dec. 15: A man identified as Kristopher Cameron was shot and injured; he was hospitalized and later died. Authorities said Cameron had met Cooksey for a drug deal.

Dec. 15: Police said a woman named Maria Villanueva was confronted by Cooksey when she got out of her car and then left in his car with him. Authorities said she was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and killed.

Dec. 17: Cooksey’s mother and stepfather, Rene Cooksey and Edward Nunn, were shot dead at a home. Cooksey was arrested that night and has been jailed since.

Glendale Police Chief Rick St. John said the cases came together thanks to a patrol officer who answered the call and was “doing the right things: Taking a person into custody, recognizing there were abnormalities to his behavior. He was trying to conceal what was going on. The officer very appropriately took the right actions. … And that all occurred before the agencies really started to collaborate.”

He said he is “proud as heck” that the suspect is “off the streets.”

Authorities said they expect people in the community to have information to help piece together the relationships and possible motives. Anyone with information is asked to call authorities.

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