Phoenix police claim they have linked the slayings of nine people to 35-year-old Cleophus Cooksey Jr., who has been behind bars since Dec. 17

By Chris Harris
January 18, 2018 06:35 PM
Cleophus Cooksey Jr.
Credit: Arizona Department of Corrections

Phoenix police say they have linked the slayings of nine people to a 35-year-old man who has been behind bars since Dec. 17, when he was arrested for allegedly murdering his mother and stepfather.

Cleophus Cooksey Jr. has been described as a suspected serial killer by investigators, who claim they have uncovered evidence tying him to as many as seven other unsolved homicides over less than a month, PEOPLE confirms.

His mother, 56-year-old Rene Cooksey, and his stepfather, Edward Nunn, 54, were fatally shot on Dec. 17.

Authorities also alleged that Cleophus killed Andrew Remillard and Parker Gregory Smith, who were shot to death on Nov. 27, and Salim Richards, who was killed five days later.

What’s more, investigators suspect he was behind the Dec. 11, shooting death of his ex-girlfriend’s brother Jesus Bonifacio Real, the Dec. 13 killing of LaTorrie Beckford and, two days later, the slaying of Kris Cameron.

A day before he allegedly gunned down his mother and stepdad, Cleophus killed Maria Villanueva, shooting her on Dec. 16, 2017, after abducting her in Glendale, Arizona, police claim.

The allegations were outlined during a news conference held Thursday morning.

A motive for these killings, which were committed over a three-week span, is unclear and police said they believe they were random.

• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

Cleophus remains in custody, but court records did not indicate a bail amount.

He has not entered pleas to the nine first-degree murder charges he faces and does not have an attorney who could comment on his behalf.

Cleophus spent much of his 20s in prison on a manslaughter conviction, authorities said. He has been in and out of penal institutions ever since.

According to investigators, ballistics testing on Cleophus’ gun connected him to all nine killings and they have not ruled out his participation in other unsolved homicides.

• For more compelling true crime coverage, follow our Crime magazine on Flipboard.

Cleophus is the second serial-killing suspect to be arrested in Phoenix in the past year.

In May, police arrested Aaron Saucedo, 23, as the alleged “Serial Street Shooter,” responsible for nine deaths.

He has pleaded not guilty to the murder charges against him.