Detective: Neighbors heard ex-con kill mother, stepfather

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Cleophus Cooksey and 9 victims. 19 Jan. 2018 ( Cleophus Cooksey and 9 victims. 19 Jan. 2018 (
Mug shot of Cleophus Emmanuel Cooksey, Jr. (Source: MCSO) Mug shot of Cleophus Emmanuel Cooksey, Jr. (Source: MCSO)

A convicted felon accused of serial killings in Arizona fatally shot his mother in the apartment they shared and then had an argument with his stepfather before killing him, a police detective testified Thursday.

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Neighbors of Cleophus Cooksey Jr., 35, heard the gunshots on Dec. 17 that are believed to have killed his mother, Rene Cooksey, according to Detective Michelle Cervantes. Then they heard a tense exchange of words between Cooksey and his stepfather, Edward Nunn, followed by more gunshots, Cervantes said at a bail hearing.

While the reason for the argument is unknown, the detective said a neighbor reported hearing someone in the Cooksey apartment saying something about "the devil, evil (and) Satan" before the second volley of gunfire. It was unclear from the testimony who made the comment and how it fits into the argument.

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The detective was the only witness to testify at a court hearing where prosecutors were asking for Cooksey to be denied bail.

It was set at $1 million after his arrest in the deaths of his mother and stepfather. It was upped to $5 million last week after police said he killed seven others, though no charges have been filed in those deaths.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Suspected serial killer Cleophus Cooksey, Jr.]

[CRIME MAP: 9 murders Phoenix police attribute to suspected serial killer Cleo Cooksey]

Cooksey is accused of carrying out the serial killings in metro Phoenix from late November until mid-December. They say ballistics and other evidence tie him to the slayings. Investigators say Cooksey knew some of the victims but were still trying to determine motives in a few of the attacks.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Kemp hasn't yet made a decision on whether Cooksey should be jailed until trial. The judge said he must first read grand jury transcripts from the case.

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Cooksey, who has pleaded not guilty, chose not to attend Thursday's hearing. One of his lawyers, Gary Beren, declined to comment.

Prosecutors say state law denies bail to people charged with crimes eligible for the death penalty. Authorities haven't said whether they will seek the death penalty.

Cooksey's attorneys say prosecutors can't show why the deaths of Cooksey's mother and stepfather could lead to the death penalty.

Four months before the killings started, Cooksey was released from prison on a manslaughter conviction for his participation in a 2001 robbery of a strip club where an accomplice was fatally shot.

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