iStock/Thinkstock(PHOENIX) — The man accused of committing nine murders in just three weeks in Arizona is an “aspiring music star” who has spent nearly half of his young life in prison, according to police.
Cleophus Cooksey Jr., 35, 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.
The nine homicides spanned from Nov. 27 to Dec. 17 in Phoenix and nearby Avondale and Glendale, police said. Four of the nine murders happened within 2 square miles, police said.
Cooksey had been in prison for about 16 years after being involved in an armed robbery, police said. After his release from prison, he was in and out of jail, police said.
Police described him as an “aspiring music star,” and some of his YouTube videos — posted between November 2015 and January 2016 — had haunting lyrics, like, “That’s the mentality of a killa,” and, “I chopped all the best of ’em / murdered all the rest of ’em / nothing left of ’em.”
Phoenix Police Sgt. Jonathan Howard called the crimes “disturbing” and told ABC News only three of the nine victims were not known to Cooksey.
Cooksey is accused of stealing a gun from one of the victims and using that weapon in the following six killings, Howard said.
Police believe there is a “distinct possibility” of more victims and Howard said they are being flooded with calls from people helping them find possible connections.
Here is the timeline of crimes, according to police:
Two men — Andrew Remillard and Parker Smith — were found dead in a car in a parking lot. They were each shot once in the head, according to court documents.
A man identified as Salim Richards was in a “physical struggle with the suspect during the shooting” that left him dead, according to court documents. A gun and a necklace were taken from the victim, and on Dec. 3 Cooksey posted a Facebook video showing him wearing a similar necklace, according to court documents. Cooksey was also wearing a similar necklace when he was arrested weeks later, according to court documents.
Cooksey stole the gun from Richards, a security guard, and used it in the following six murders, according to Howard.
Cooksey allegedly killed his girlfriend’s brother hours after the girlfriend apparently broke up with him, according to court documents.
On Dec. 11 between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m., Cooksey went into an apartment and used a stolen gun to fatally shoot Jesus Real two times in the face at close range while Real was lying down, apparently sleeping, according to court documents.
Real’s sister was dating Cooksey, and Cooksey stayed over at this Avondale apartment where the family lived several nights a week, according to court documents. Real’s sister told police Cooksey was her ex and they broke up the night before, and he left the house around 7 a.m. on Dec. 11, court documents say.
On Dec. 13, a man named Latorrie Beckford was found shot dead on the ground next to an apartment complex parking lot with two gunshot wounds to his head.
Witnesses told police they heard two gunshots and “when they approached they observed a dark-skinned black male” walking from “close proximity to where the victim was lying,” court documents state.
“Witnesses reported the black male pulled out a black semi-auto handgun after being seen by them,” the court documents say.
Witnesses said earlier in the day, Beckford was in an altercation with two other men, court documents state. A photo of Cooksey was later shown to one of the witnesses who said the photo was very close to the man she saw in an altercation with Beckford. That assault reportedly took place about three hours before the shooting, the court documents states.
Witnesses said Cooksey was known as “Playboy” at the apartment complex, and in an interview in January, Cooksey admitted to investigators “he goes by the nickname ‘Playboy’ because of how good he is with women,” court documents say.
A man named Kristopher Cameron was shot in the neck and abdomen at an apartment complex, court documents say.
When officers arrived at the west entry gate, a man told police “my cousin has been shot” and he directed officers to where the shooting victim was, according to court documents.
Witnesses said “a black male was observed removing the victim’s backpack from him then leaving on foot,” court documents say.
After Cooksey was identified as the suspect, that first responding officer “was interviewed and shown a photo of the person he spoke with at the west entry gate. That confirmed Cooksey was the person he spoke with who told him ‘my cousin has been shot,'” court documents state.
Cameron was hospitalized and later died. Authorities said Cameron had met Cooksey for a drug deal.
Also on Dec. 15, Cooksey was seen on surveillance cameras going into an apartment complex, court documents say. Victim Maria Villanueva was seen parking her car that apartment complex, where she was headed to visit her boyfriend, documents state. The suspect is seen going to her car and watching her, and after several minutes, interacting with her, documents state; at one point, they drive away together. Authorities said she was sexually assaulted. She was found shot to death in an alley, naked from the waist down, documents say.
Cooksey later told police “he did not know how she was killed which he also said about all of the other victims related to these crimes,” the documents say.
Cooksey’s mother and stepfather, Rene Cooksey and Edward Nunn, were shot dead at a home. When police responded, Cleophus Cooksey opened the door and said nothing was going on and no one else was home, according to court documents.
Cleophus Cooksey came outside with blood on him, and when an officer tried to detain him, “he yelled out to the officer he controlled the gun, would slit the officer’s throat, he was the strongest man alive, and he took care of the snitches for Donald Trump,” according to the court documents.
Cleophus Cooksey was arrested that night and has been jailed since.
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