Phoenix police say suspected serial killer will likely be linked to more murders

Police in Phoenix say they've identified a suspected serial killer responsible for a string of murders. Thirty-year-old Cleophus Cooksey Jr. was already in custody and is accused of killing nine people during a three-week period late last year.

Cooksey spent 16 years in prison for manslaughter and armed robbery, reports CBS News correspondent Carter Evans. He had been free only about 18 months when he was arrested again in December, this time for the murder of his mom and stepdad.

While in custody, police say, they then linked him to seven more killings, using evidence from shell casings found at the murder scenes.

Anthia Wint says the first time she heard the name Cleophus Cooksey Jr. was Thursday morning when police told her he was responsible for her son's murder. Twenty-nine-year-old LaTorrie Beckford was shot twice near an apartment building in Glendale, Arizona, on December 13.

"We can sleep a little better tonight knowing that his killer is caught," said Wint.

She told CBS News she forgives her son's alleged killer.

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Anthia Wint and Chloe Ridore 

CBS News

Beckford's younger sister, Chloe Ridore, said, "My brother was an innocent bystander and it's sad that it was him."

In a YouTube video, Cooksey can be seen rapping about murder. He is accused of killing seven men and two women in the Phoenix area from November 27 to December 17. All died from gunshot wounds.

Phoenix police credit an advanced ballistic technology with helping link Cooksey to the murders. Phoenix is one of five cities that joined a national program allowing agencies to rapidly share, analyze and process evidence from different crime scenes.

"We solved nine homicides in three weeks. I think that's astounding for any police department," said Phoenix Police Department spokesman Jonathan Howard.

He said it's possible Cooksey will be linked to additional crimes.

"I think there is a possibility. In fact, I'm going to say I think there is a probability that there are additional homicides out there involving this same suspect," Howard said.

Wint says that while Thursday's arrest gives her some closure, it still doesn't bring her son back.

"He had the will for life and I can't imagine that he's not here anymore. Each and every day is very hard," Wint said.

Police say they are still trying to determine Cooksey's relationship to each victim and a motive for the killings. CBS News reached out to Cooksey's lawyer but has not heard back. He is being held on $5 million bond.