By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) – A convicted Arizona felon arrested on charges of killing his mother and stepfather in their home last month is now believed responsible for at least seven more fatal shootings in the Phoenix area, police said on Thursday.
Phoenix police said they have evidence linking Cleophus Cooksey Jr., 35, to the shooting deaths of nine people in all during a three-week span that began in late November when two men were gunned down in a local parking lot.
That death toll ranks among the highest attributed by authorities to a single suspect in Arizona history.
A blood-stained Cooksey was arrested at the scene of the Dec. 17 gunshot slayings of his mother, Rene Cooksey, and her husband, Edward Nunn, in their living room, according to police.
He has been held in custody ever since, as police amassed evidence linking him to seven additional homicides and other crimes, said Sergeant Jon Howard, a Phoenix police spokesman.
So far, Cooksey has only been charged with two counts of premeditated murder and one count of unlawful possession of a weapon in connection with his parents’ killings.
But he faces additional murder and weapons charges, as well as one count each of a sexually motivated kidnapping and armed robbery, stemming from the seven other murder investigations still underway, police said.
Gary Beren, a lawyer listed in court records as Cooksey’s attorney in the case of his parents, could not immediately be reached for comment.
“There are ballistic links to all of these crimes,” Howard told reporters.
Howard said there was no known motive for the killings. The nine victims – seven men and two women – ranged in age from 21 to 56.
Asked whether additional victims might be identified, Howard said that was “absolutely a distinct possibility.”
Apart from his mother and stepfather, police said Cooksey had a personal connection to at least one other of his alleged victims. The body of a former girlfriend’s brother was found inside a home on Dec. 11.
Cooksey has a long criminal history and served time for manslaughter and armed robbery in the past, prison records show. He is the second suspected serial killer arrested by Phoenix police in the last year. In May, police linked 12 shootings and nine deaths to a former city bus driver who has pleaded not guilty.
(Editing by Steve Gorman and Tom Brown)