PHOENIX, AZ — Arizona police have arrested a suspected serial killer who allegedly murdered nine victims — including his mother and stepfather — during a three-week period in 2017.
Police announced at a press conference on January 18 that 35-year-old Cleophus Cooksey Jr. was in custody. Cooksey, who is the grandson of Tucson area civil rights leader Roy Cooksey, was arrested in December 2017 and charged with first-degree murder for the killings of his mother, Rene Cooksey, and his stepfather, Edward Nunn.
Following his arrest, investigators say they were able to link Cooksey to fatal shootings in Phoenix, Avondale, and Glendale with the help of ballistic evidence.
Phoenix investigators were able to link Cooksey to the various shootings quickly because it is one of only five cities in a pilot program that allows police to immediately process and share ballistics results from different crime scenes within hours instead of the weeks it normally takes.
Unlike many serial murderers who stick with a particular victim type, Cooksey targeted victims of multiple races and both genders, who ranged in age from 21 to 56.
- Investigators say that the murder spree began on November 27 at 10:45 P.M., when Andrew Remillard, 27, and Parker Smith, 21, were found dead together inside a car.
- On December 2, Salim Richards, 35, was walking around at 7:44 P.M. near 4030 N 44th Avenue in Phoenix when he was shot and killed.
- On December 11, Jesus Bonifacio Real, 25, was fatally shot at around 3:30 P.M. near 500 E Harrison Drive in Avondale. In this case, there seems to be evidence linking the victim to Cooksey: According to police, the victim’s sister was Cooksey’s ex-girlfriend.
- On December 13, Latorrie Beckford, 29, was killed at around 6:53 P.M. near 5038 N 55th Avenue in Glendale.
- On December 15 at 7:22 P.M., Kristopher Cameron, 21 — who police say came to Glendale to make a drug transaction with Cooksey — was killed.
- Just over an hour later on the 15th, Maria Villanueva, 43, was kidnapped near 58th Avenue and Camelback. She apparently got into a car with Cooksey under unknown circumstances, and her body was found with evidence of having been sexually assaulted the next day.
On December 17, officers were called to a domestic disturbance and arrived to find Cooksey with blood on him. When they entered the residence, they found his mother and stepfather’s bodies inside. As he was being arrested, Cooksey reportedly yelled, “I’m the strongest man alive!” and threatened to cut the arresting officer’s throat.
After he was detained in December and booked on suspicion of first-degree murder and a weapons charge, Cooksey told police that he “did not know what occurred” and requested a lawyer, according to court paperwork.
Cooksey, an aspiring rapper, has previously served 16 years in prison for an armed robbery committed in November 2000 and manslaughter committed in January 2001. He was released from prison on July 28, 2017.
A YouTube channel in Cooksey’s nickname “King Playbola” contains several videos of Cooksey rapping from his couch.
The investigation continues. Police suspect that Cooksey may be linked to even more crimes.
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Main photo: Cleophus Cooksey Jr. [Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office]