National News

Arizona Man Charged in Nine Killings Over Three Weeks

Posted January 18, 2018 5:37 p.m. EST

A man who was arrested in December and charged with killing his mother and stepfather is now tied to seven additional killings over the previous three weeks, Phoenix police said Thursday.

The man, Cleophus Cooksey Jr., 35, has been in a county jail since Dec. 17, when Rene Cooksey and her husband, Edward Nunn, were found dead inside their home.

The series of killings in Phoenix, Glendale and Avondale in November and December, as described by the police Thursday, do not fit a specific pattern. One appeared to be related to a drug deal. One victim was the brother of an ex-girlfriend. One woman appeared to be sexually assaulted before she was killed.

But a combination of physical evidence, witness reports and his own statements connected Cooksey to the additional killings, Sgt. Jonathan Howard of the Phoenix Police Department said at a news conference Thursday.

“We have received statements that implicate him in these crimes at some level,” he said.

Investigators have not been able to identify any previous relationship between Cooksey and Maria Villanueva, who the police said was sexually assaulted before she was killed. But “we’re starting to get some witness calls in” that show prior contact with the others, Howard said.

Cooksey now faces nine counts of homicide, seven counts of prohibited possessor of a firearm, one count of sexually motivated kidnapping, one count of theft of a firearm and one count of armed robbery with a deadly weapon.

An aspiring musician, he was released from prison in 2015 after serving 14 years for armed robbery and manslaughter, according to Arizona prison records. Since then, Cooksey had been “in and out of jail,” Howard said. He was most recently released July 28, according to prison records.

The Arizona Republic has published profiles of each of the victims, who range in age from 21 to 56. They all died from gunshot wounds.

Nov. 27: Andrew Remillard and Parker Smith were found dead inside a car at about 10:45 p.m. in Phoenix.

Dec. 2: Salim Richards was found dead near a roadway in Phoenix at about 7:45 p.m. Some of his property, including a handgun, had been stolen.

Dec. 11: Jesus Real was found dead inside his home in Avondale at about 3:30 p.m.

Dec. 13: Latorrie Beckford was found dead in the common area of an apartment complex in Glendale at about 6:55 p.m.

Dec. 15: Kristopher Cameron was found dead in the common area of an apartment complex in Glendale at about 7:20 p.m.

Dec. 15: Villanueva was kidnapped from an apartment complex in Glendale at about 8:50 p.m. Her body was found in an alley in Phoenix the next morning, with signs of sexual assault.

Dec. 17: Rene Cooksey and Nunn were found dead inside their apartment in Phoenix around 8 p.m.