The Misidentified Serial Killer

cleophus cooksey jr

Photo courtesy of Arizona Police Department

Cleophus Cooksey Jr, 36 was released from prison in July of 2017 only to kill nine people four months later. Cooksey was immediately labeled a serial killer, but I tend to disagree. The FBI defines a serial killer as someone who kills three or more people with a cooling-off period in between. Serial killers tend to kill for sexual gratification and chose victims according to their fetish desires. Spree killers, on the other hand, tend to kill two or more people in a short period of time. These killers escalate quickly and don’t have a cooling-off period between the murders. I argue that Cooksey would fall into the spree killer category. I will present the facts as they are available and let you decide.

Cooksey was the grandson of an Arizona civil-rights leader Roy L. Cooksey. The civil rights activist opened the state’s first black-owned daycare center in Tucson and helped to establish the Afro-American Coordination Committee in 1960. Surely his children and grandchildren would follow in his footsteps and become pillars in their community, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case here. Cleophus Cooksey, Jr. would have continuous run-ins with Arizona law enforcement during his teenage years and was imprisoned by the age of 18 convicted of manslaughter. He would be behind bars for 16 years.
Cooksey was released from prison in early 2015 even after being charged with 22 infractions while behind bars. Freedom would last ten months before he was arrested for a DUI. After his release from the DUI, he would again be arrested in May 2016 on another parole violation. This hopping in and out of jail continued until he was finally released under supervision on July 28, 2017. This time he would go on to kill nine people four months after his release.

victims of cleophus cooksey jr

Photo courtesy of Arizona Police Department

November 27, 2017:
Andrew Remillard, 27 and Parker Smith, 21 were found shot to death in a Phoenix parking lot.
December 2, 2017:
Salim Richards, 35 was robbed and shot. He would die at the scene before paramedics could get him stabilized.

December 11, 2017:
Jesus Bonifacio Real, 25 was shot and killed. Mr. Real was the brother of Cooksey’s ex-girlfriend.

December 13, 2017:
Latorrie Beckford, 29 was killed

December 16, 2017:
Kristopher Cameron’s remains were found discarded in a field. He was only 21.
Later the same day, Maria Billanueva, 43 was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and killed.

December 17, 2017:
The police were called when neighbors heard shots fired. The authorities arrived to find Rene Cooksey and Edward Nunn shot and killed. Cleophus Cooksey, Jr. was arrested for the death of his mother and stepfather the same day. It would take a little while before ballistics would link the other slayings with Cooksey. It is unclear what set off Cooksey, or what his motive was in the slayings. I will keep you posted as I follow the case.

Synova’s Rantings:

I contend that the media uses the word “serial killer” a little too much. A spree killer doesn’t seem to draw the same attention. I will let you draw your own conclusions, but I feel the media uses “click bait” titles to draw attention. I wish we could go back to reporting the facts of cases and stop muddying the water with sensationalized news. The suspected crimes of this man, if proven true are heinous enough without the dramatizing of headlines.

 

Synova Appearing in Springfield, MO – 1 Day Only!

Synova will be appearing THIS Saturday at the ABC bookstore in Springfield, MO.

Do you like to chat about true crime cases? Do you like reading true crime books? Come out and meet S.W. MO’s #1 True Crime Writer/Blogger.

Time: 11 AM – 4 PM

ABC Books

2109 N Glenstone Ave Ste J
Springfield, Missouri 65803

Serial Killer or Psychotic Windbag?

Arthur Ream

“Art had a thing for little girls,” said Arthur Ream’s ex-wife. Unfortunately, this information wouldn’t be taken seriously for 22 years after the disappearance of Cindy Zarzycki. Now nearly forty years from her death the authorities wonder if this serial pedophile and child killer could actually be a serial killer. I will let you decide.

Who is Arthur N. Ream?

Art Ream is a 68-yr-old convicted pedophile, child molester, and child killer. His lengthy criminal record extends back to the early 1970’s. He was arrested in 1975 for taking indecent liberties with a child and served five years. By 1986, Ream was living in East Detroit, Michigan. (The town would be later renamed as Eastpointe)
Cindy Zarzycki, 13 was madly in love with a boy named Scott. He was her dreamy first crush and he was all she could talk about. In April of 1986, Cindy had been grounded for disobeying her father and was supposed to stay home. The single father had his hands full raising a family on his own, but he had to keep an eye on his teen girl and the rebelliousness that comes with adolescence. Knowing the world for what it was, he had one rule that must be obeyed. It was simple. “Do not walk home alone.”
Cindy disobeyed and walked home from the local mall and was grounded for it. This simple rule, had it been followed could have saved the young girl’s life. Puppy love is blinding, however, and Cindy found herself sneaking out to go to her “boyfriend’s” surprise birthday party. She was to meet Scott’s father at Dairy Queen at 11 am. There was one piece of critical information hidden from sweet Cindy. Scott’s father was none other than the convicted child molester, Arthur Ream. There wasn’t a birthday party. Scott wasn’t even in the state at the time. Cindy headed towards the Dairy Queen on April 18, 1986, and was never seen again. The case was viewed as a runaway and overlooked for several weeks before falling into the cold case files.
Years later cold case detectives notice Linda Bronson’s statement about her ex-husband and reached out to her. That coupled with witness statements from childhood friends made Arthur Ream the prime suspect. Finally, in 2008, the family watched Arthur Ream receive a life sentence for the murder of their innocent little Cindy. Eventually, with some physiological wrangling, the detectives convinced Ream to lead them to Cindy’s body. Buried with her was her favorite denim purse filled with the mixtape she made for her beloved Scott’s birthday.

Fast forward to 2018 and now Ream is in the headlines again when investigators have possibly linked up to six more cold cases to the child killer. Evidence led them to believe that the bodies of several other young girls had been buried near Cindy’s gravesite in the early 1970’s. Here is a brief synopsis of each of the possible victims.

 

• Cynthia Coon, 13
Coon was last seen in Ann Arbor, Michigan on January 19, 1970. This was just before Art Ream’s first prison sentence. Cynthia Coon loved to walk the one mile to school every morning. She was on her way to the Forsythe Junior High School building on the morning of January 19th but never arrived.

This case was unusual because she actually contacted her parents three months later in April 1970. She was afraid and couldn’t tell her parents her location. The police wondered if it was another runaway situation, but this theory was dispelled when the parents received an extortion phone call a month later. After that horrifying call, there has been no contact from the missing thirteen-year-old.

Police are still looking for possible links between the missing girl and Arthur Ream and wonder if they will find her remains in Ream’s morbid cemetery in Macomb Township.

• Nadine O’Dell, 16

Nadine was a quiet teenager that frequently babysat other children. August 16, 1974, she was on her way to meet her boyfriend to babysit for his young siblings. He was planning to meet her at the halfway point so she wouldn’t have to walk alone the entire way. She never made it to the rendezvous point. The cold case remains unsolved 44 years later.

• Kim Larrow, 15

Kim was visiting her friend who worked at an ice cream shop in Canton, Michigan. The girls were making plans to meet at Haggerty Field that evening, but the teenager was never seen again. Unfortunately, a child of divorced parents Kim had become a bit rebellious and found herself experimenting with drugs. This was the excuse that was given later when it was discovered that the family didn’t file a missing person’s report for several days. Whatever the reasons, Kim’s case has remained cold since June 8, 1981.

• Kellie Brownlee, 17

On May 20, 1982, Kellie Brownlee had hitchhiked to the Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi, Michigan where she planned on submitting several job applications. She applied at a few locations and was even spotted by a family friend, but never returned home.

• Kimberly King, 12

The youngest of Ream’s possible victims was a 12-yr-old named Kimberly King. September 15, 1979, Kim was supposed to go to the movies with her friends, but when plans changed she called them from a local payphone. Kimberly never showed up to meet her friends.

 

So, is Arthur Ream a serial killer, or was he merely bragging to other inmates to bolster is jailhouse persona? The FBI and Michigan authorities don’t think so. They spent a week out digging the wooded area trying to find human remains. Unfortunately, the area is huge. The team finally closed the dig site and is currently restructuring the dig. I will continue watching this case and will let you know what they find out. As always if you have any information on this case please contact the FBI at 1-800-CALLFBI

Missouri’s Madame Murderer

Missouri’s Madame Murderer

When a wife is found murdered in her home the first person suspected is always the husband. Maybe it’s the old TV shows that program us to believe the bad guy is always the butler. As viewers, this concept makes for good television, and it is expected among the collective masses. The problems begin when the investigators believe this notion and refuse to look past it. This is what happened in the case of Russ and Betsy Faria.

Two days after Christmas in 2011, Russell Faria arrives home to find his wife dead in the floor. He calls 911 in a panic to report that his wife has committed suicide. There was one problem with this theory. She had been stabbed 55 times and the knife was left in her neck. It was obviously not a suicide. This made the police look harder at Russell Faria. The rest of the clues should have led to another suspect, but once Russ was suspected they didn’t look at anyone else. One key witness would make sure their focus stayed squarely on Russ Faria’s chest. Her name was Pam Hupp.
The Farias were a happily married couple struggling through Betsy’s bout with terminal cancer. They had just returned from a cruise and were planning another vacation the upcoming March. During Betsy’s battles, she relied a great deal on her best friend Pam to help with rides to the doctor and such. She also allegedly depended on Pam to become the beneficiary of her life insurance policy upon her death. The $150,000 was to be placed into a trust for her daughters and it was. So, what’s the problem? The trust was set up four days before the trial of Russell Faria and then it was wiped out right after the husband was convicted of murder. The children never received a penny. The very fact that Hupp received the insurance payout should have been a red flag, but it was overlooked and wasn’t allowed into the trial.
Even though Russ had a solid alibi for the night of the crime backed up by four witnesses, time-stamped receipts, cell phone towers, and surveillance cameras, the prosecution kept the blinders on and focused on him anyway. The crime scene held some unusual clues that could have pointed at Russ, but to an open-minded investigator they could have spelled out “set up.”
Russell Faria was convicted of the murder of his wife to everyone’s surprise. After the first trial, the investigators would review old evidence and Pam Hupp’s behavior after Russell’s conviction.
Betsy Faria was stabbed 55 times. Let’s look at that. Upon close examination, it was discovered that most of the stab wounds were done posthumously, or after death. The slits across Betsy Faria’s wrists were done deliberately to give the first impression of suicide. The other wounds weren’t readily visible, so Russ’ 911 call was beginning to make more sense. Couple that with the fact that Betsy had threatened suicide a few times during her bout with cancer, it became clear that this wasn’t an open and shut case against the husband.
During the second trial, the defense was allowed to bring up the evidence against Pam Hupp. This included the fact that she was the last to see Betsy alive, and she had taken the life insurance money without giving it to the children. This along with Russell’s alibi exonerated him of his wife’s murder. That’s the end of the story, right? Nope.
A few months later the case was brought back into the spotlight when a woman dials 911 in a panic. A man was supposedly breaking into her house with a knife and threatening to kill her. Suddenly the operator hears several gunshots and the woman cries profusely. Pam Hupp had just killed Louis Gumpenberger. In the man’s pocket was a note that mentioned Russell Faria and money. Could Russ have hired a hitman to go after poor Pamela Hupp? No. This time the police saw through her ruse quickly. Her staged crime scene and her vicious hitman began to fall apart. Gumpenberger was anything but vicious. It turns out Pam Hupp had lured a mentally disabled man to her home and shot him dead. Why? To frame Russell Faria. Or maybe I should say re-frame? You’d think she wouldn’t try the same failed idea twice, but she did.
Police arrest Pamela Hupp for the murder of Gumpenberger and haul her off to jail. Her attorneys are currently fighting to keep the evidence of the previous two murders out of this trial. Wait. Did I say two murders? Yes, I did. You see this isn’t the first time Pam Hupp was suspected of murder. Allegedly Pam’s own mother died when she accidentally fell off a balcony years ago. I bet you can’t guess who got money out of that deal? Now after delving into that case, it seems that Shirley Neumann’s death was likely a homicide. Time and investigation will tell.

5a78ac62ed67c.image
What do you think? Do you think there is a triple homicide here, or do you believe Hupp’s claims that the evil Russell Faria is out to get her? Currently, Hupp’s trial has been postponed until September of this year. I will update you as the case progresses.

 

Let’s chat at my next book signing event!

I will be in Joplin, MO this Saturday from 11 am – 2 pm. You can find me at the Always Buying Books bookstore.

5357 N Main St, Joplin, MO 64801

Show me this meme and get a discount on my books!

The Phantom Assassin

I-70sketches

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48155940

Is there really such a thing as the perfect crime? The Golden State Killer got away with murder but was still caught 44 years later. But what happens when there isn’t any DNA to link the killer to the icy cold case?
This is what happened in the 26-year-old cold case of the I-70 serial killer. Many people confuse this case with the I-70 Strangler, but that guy was caught. His name was Herb Baumeister and he targeted gay men.
This case is strange in the fact that the killer walked into a store, shot his weapon, and walked right back out leaving behind shell casings and the body of a petite brunette. That’s all. There weren’t any sexual assaults to leave DNA. He didn’t torture his victims. He simply wanted to kill.
April 8, 1992:
A 26-yr-old brunette woman opened the Payless Shoe Source shoe store in Indianapolis, Indiana. Her name was Robin Fuldauer. Register receipts show that sometime between 1:30 pm and 2 pm, a man walked into the store and shot Robin in the back of the head with a .22. A customer walks in around 2 pm and finds the place empty and calls the police. She hadn’t noticed Robin’s body face down in the back room. Strangely only a few dollars was stolen from the cash register. Police wonder if this was a botched robbery attempt. That theory would be dropped quickly when the Phantom Assassin found his next target.

April 11, 1992:
Three days later & 700 miles east along I-70 the killer strikes again. This time there were two victims. Both women are petite with shoulder length brown hair. They were busy closing the bridal shop and were waiting for a late customer to arrive.
Pat Majors and Patricia Smith had already shut off the lights and locked the door when a man knocked on the front glass. Patricia Smith unlocked the door with the customer’s order in hand. He had already paid so she expected to merely hand it out the door. Instead, she was pushed inside and ordered to the back by the Phantom Assassin. The two women were quickly shot in the head, but before the killer could leave the customer showed up.
The gunman tried to force the man into the back room, but instead, the witness entered a dialog with the killer. Somehow he was able to persuade the killer to let him go. The witness fled the scene and called the police. They arrived on site not knowing what to expect. The two women were quickly found in the back room. One was declared dead at the scene and the other died later in the hospital. The only clues left behind were the shell casings and the witness description. Surely that would be enough to catch the guy. Right? Wrong.

April 27, 1992:
Sixteen days later in Terre Haute, Indiana, the killer strikes yet another petite brunette working alone in Sylvia’s Ceramics. This time the killer gets sloppy. His victim was actually a man named Michael McCowan. The store was named after his mother Sylvia. He wore his brown hair in a long ponytail and wore earrings. Perhaps the deranged psychopath thought Michael was a female in his haste to appease his inner demons. Who knows? Whatever the case it was clear that a petite brunette wasn’t safe working alone in a storefront building along I-70.

May 3, 1992:
One week later the killer would find his next target. This time it was Nancy Kitzmiller. She was working in a western wear store in St. Charles, Missouri.

May 7, 1992:
Four days later the killer shoots Sarah Blessing in Raytown, Missouri. This time there were two witnesses. The suspect walked down the sidewalk looking in the windows and caught the gaze of a young man in an electronics store. The witness noticed the man was wearing a large heavy coat and thought it was odd in the warm weather. A few moments later the witness heard a loud pop next door. When he peered out the door he saw the stranger calmly walking down the sidewalk in the opposite direction. The man ran next door to find Sarah had been shot. She died on the scene.
A grocery store employee was out gathering shopping carts from the parking lot and noticed the suspect climbing the slight embankment towards I-70. Both witnesses gave the same descriptions that the police had heard before. He was a white man in his late 20’s – mid 30’s. He was small around 5’9” – 5’10” with sandy blondish hair. Some recall his hair having a dull red tint.

Suddenly the killings seemed to stop leaving the investigators wondering what happened. Maybe the killer had been arrested on an unrelated charge. Police poured over all the surrounding area’s arrest records. One by one they were all ruled out and the case was faltering on the brink of becoming a cold case.

September 25, 1993:
Sixteen months after Sarah Blessing’s murder, a killer surfaces in Texas off I-35. His MO is eerily similar to the I-70 killer and investigators wonder if they could be the work of one man. Mary Glasscock, another petite brunette, was murdered by a single gunshot to the back of the head with a .22. She had been working alone at the Emporium Antiques store in Fort Worth, Texas.

November 1, 1993:
Amy Vess was working alone in a dancewear shop when the killer shot her, stole some cash from the register and left behind a shell casing from a .22.

January 15, 1994:
Vicki Webb was shot by an unknown killer while she worked alone in a Houston gift shop. A spinal abnormality caused the bullet to ricochet off the vertebrae and lodge in her head. The bullet paralyzed her but didn’t kill her. At that moment she made a decision that would save her life. She chose to play dead. Webb could hear him rummaging through the cash register and then he returned to her. He rolled her over and looked at her for a moment. Then he pressed the barrel to her forehead and pulled the trigger. The gun misfired. Almost as an afterthought he pulled her pants down to her ankles and walked out of the store. Was he not buying her act? Was he planning to sexually assault her and was scared off by something? In later interviews, Webb said she really didn’t think he was aroused by pulling off her pants. It was almost as a last minute idea. Maybe he was trying to throw off the cops, or maybe his MO was changing. Was he becoming a sexual predator?
Vicki Webb lived and after many surgeries and countless hours of physical therapy, she was able to walk again. She lived in fear that he would return to finish the job and for decades she kept her face out of the newspapers. It wasn’t until an episode of Dark Minds that she allowed an interview. She claims she wants to see her attacker in court just to show him that she won. I hope she gets the chance.

Some investigators have a hard time linking the I-70 slayings and the I-35 killings. Here are the facts as I have uncovered them. I personally believe they are the same man, but I will let you decide.

Location:
– All the hits were within easy access to a major interstate highway providing an easy escape
– All the targets were working alone in a small storefront type store

Victims:
– All the victims were shot execution-style in the back of the head
– No torture
– No sexual assault
– No major reconnaissance beforehand

Weapon: Here is where some investigators question the connection.
– The I-70 killer used a different .22 than the I-35 killer used

My explanations:
During the 16-month hiatus, there was a big media blitz. My theory is that he saw something on the news that scared him. So he changed weapons and location.
My researching continues on this case and I hope to write a book about this case. Hopefully, I can get it completed by the year’s end. I will keep you posted on my progress.

Below is a wanted poster to show the killer’s gun. If you have any information on this case please contact the St. Charles P.D. 1-800-800-3510 or contact your local police department.

wanted pic