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Police charge possible Phoenix spree killer with nine murders

(Arizona Department of Corrections Photo)

PHOENIX — Police accused a possible Phoenix spree killer Thursday of murdering nine people during a three-week span last year, which would make him one of the most prolific killers in state history.

The Phoenix Police Department said 35-year-old Cleophus Cooksey Jr. was arrested in December for allegedly killing his mother, Rene, and stepfather, Edward Nunn.

Police said Cooksey was linked to the crimes through physical evidence — including ballistics — and witness statements but did not go into more specifics.

Cooksey — who also went by Playboy — already had a criminal record. He had previously been convicted of murder and armed robbery.

Since his December arrest, he has been linked to at least seven other unsolved fatal shootings.

The killings Cooksey was accused of committing were scattered all over the Valley. They ranged from west of the Loop 101 in Goodyear to State Route 51 in Phoenix.

The murders began on Nov. 27 and came to an end Dec. 17. Here is the police timeline of the killings:

  • Nov. 27: Andrew Remillard and Parker Smith are shot and killed late at night near 16th Street and Indian School Road.
  • Dec. 2: Salim Richards is shot near 43rd Avenue and Indian School Road. He died after police arrived on the scene. Cooksey allegedly stole his handgun — which was linked to other murders — and a necklace, which he later possibly posted a photo of on Facebook.
  • Dec. 11: Jesus Real is shot and killed near Buckeye Road and Central Avenue. Real was the brother of Cooksey’s ex-girlfriend. The crime scene was cleaned, possibly by the ex-girlfriend and her sister.
  • Dec. 13: Lattorie Beckford is shot and killed in a parking lot near Camelback Road and 55th Avenue.
  • Dec. 16: Kristopher Cameron is shot near Camelback Road and 59th Avenue. He was taken to the hospital where he died. Police believe Cameron planned to meet Cooksey to conduct some sort of drug deal.
  • Dec. 16: Maria Villanueva is killed near Interstate 17 and Central Avenue. Police said she had been abducted near Camelback Road and 58th Avenue in Glendale. She was sexually assaulted before she was shot and killed.
  • Dec. 17: Rene Cooksey and Edward Nunn are killed inside a home near 12th Street and Highland Avenue. Cooksey was found on the scene with some blood on him. He got into a physical altercation with a police officer and was arrested.

Police said it did not appear that Cooksey knew some of his alleged victims and were not certain of the motive in several of the murders. He will face murder, kidnapping and weapons misconduct charges, among others.

According to court documents, three women — Liliana Vasquez, Griselda Vasquez and Desaree Coronado — were arrested for hindering and tampering with evidence in Jesus Real’s murder.

Coronado was arrested for on one count of hindering prosecution, one count with tempering with physical evidence and failure to report to law enforcement for allegedly removing Real’s cell phone from the crime scene and lying to police about being in possession of it.

Both Liliana Vasquez and Griselda Vasquez were arrested on one count each of hindering prosecution and tempering with physical evidence.

Should Cooksey be convicted of the killings, that would likely make him the second prolific killer to have been active in the Valley in recent years. Another man, Aaron Juan Saucedo, has been accused of murdering nine people and wounding two others in the Serial Street Shooter case.

Cooksey would also be one of the deadliest men in Arizona history.

Mark Goudeau, the Baseline Killer, was convicted of killing nine people in 2006.

Dale Hausner and Samuel Dieteman were convicted of murdering eight people also in 2006.

Anyone with more information on the crimes or Cooksey was asked to contact the Phoenix Police Department or Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS.

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