Phoenix police: Serial killing suspect tied to 9 attacks

The Associated Press

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams speaks at a news conference about the linking of nine homicides to a convicted felon on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, in Phoenix, Ariz. Phoenix-area police have evidence linking 35-year-old Cleophus Cooksey Jr., already charged with killing his mother and stepfather, to seven additional homicides that occurred in a three-week span late last year. 

AP Photo/Terry Tang

PHOENIX — A serial killing suspect shot and killed nine people, including his own mother, and used a victim’s gun in some of the slayings that unfolded in a three-week span late last year, authorities said Thursday.

This undated booking photo provided by the Maricopa County Sheriff shows Cleophus Cooksey. Police in Phoenix and two suburbs say they have evidence linking Cooksey, already charged with two killings to seven additional homicides that occurred in a three-week span late last year. Police officials for Phoenix, Glendale and Avondale said Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, that Cooksey knew some of the victims but investigators are still trying to determine motives for at least some of the killings. 

Maricopa County Sheriff via AP

Shell casings, DNA, stolen jewelry and a cellphone taken from a victim were among the pieces of evidence that investigators used to tie Cleophus Cooksey Jr., 35, to the killings, according to court documents.

“It should appall every one of us in the room that he managed to kill nine people period, let alone in such a short period of three weeks,” said Sgt. Jonathan Howard, a Phoenix police spokesman.

The seven men and two women were shot between Nov. 27 and Dec. 17 in their homes, suburban apartment complexes, in a parked car or while outside, the documents state.

Cooksey, described by police as an aspiring musician, knew some of the victims but investigators were still trying to determine motives in a few of the attacks, according to police officials in Phoenix, Glendale and Avondale.

A number of details were withheld by police who cited the ongoing investigation.

The victims included Jesus Real, 25, the brother of Cooksey’s ex-girlfriend. Real was asleep in his Avondale home on Dec. 11 when he was shot twice in the face. Avondale police say Real’s sister and Cooksey had broken up the night before.

Another victim, 43-year-old Maria Villanueva, was seen on surveillance video arriving at a Glendale apartment complex on Dec. 15 and then leaving with an unknown man in the driver’s seat.

A list of nine homicide victims all linked to a convicted felon is displayed by the Phoenix Police Department at a news conference on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018 in Phoenix, Ariz. Phoenix-area police have evidence linking 35-year-old Cleophus Cooksey Jr., already charged with killing his mother and stepfather, to seven additional homicides that occurred in a three-week span late last year. 

AP Photo/Terry Tang

Her partially nude body was found the next morning in a Phoenix alley and her car was found abandoned at another complex in Glendale.

Investigators found a cellphone and a bloody men’s shirt inside. DNA on the shirt matched Cooksey’s, court documents said. The cellphone was also confirmed to be his.

Cooksey was arrested Dec. 17 for the shooting deaths of his mother and stepfather in their home and has been jailed since then on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of being a felon in possession of a weapon.

He was rebooked into jail Thursday in the seven additional homicide cases, Howard said.

“I’m just proud as heck that he’s off the street,” said Glendale police Chief Rick St. John.

Cooksey previously served 16 years in prison for manslaughter and armed robbery and had been free for 18 months, authorities said.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said new technology allows police to get results of ballistic checks within hours instead of weeks and to more easily find connections between cases.

“It means crimes get solved more quickly,” Stanton said.

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