‘ I For­give the Man Who Mur­dered My Son’

Ari­zona Se­rial Killer Vic­tim’s Mom: Four months af­ter her son was shot to death, An­thia Wint finds peace by show­ing com­pas­sion for his al­leged killer

In Touch (USA) - - True Crime -

La­tor­rie Beck­ford had big plans. In just a few weeks, when the lease on his Glen­dale, Ariz., apart­ment was up, he was re­lo­cat­ing to his mom’s Con­necti­cut home to fo­cus on his dream of de­sign­ing a cloth­ing line, he told her. In­stead, around 7 p.m. on Dec. 13 — a day af­ter they last spoke and ex­changed “I love yous” — his life­less body was found on a side­walk in his apart­ment com­plex. He’d been shot twice. His dev­as­tated mother, An­thia Wint, couldn’t make sense of the mur­der. “Ev­ery­body [who knew him], the po­lice, say my son was a quiet per­son. He didn’t get in trou­ble with any­body,” she says. “No­body knows why my child was killed.”

Four days later, po­lice ar­rested Cleo­phus Cook­sey Jr., an ex-con who they say is also a se­rial killer. In­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve La­tor­rie, 29, was the fifth of nine vic­tims killed dur­ing a three-week Ari­zona crime spree that ended with the shoot­ing deaths of Cook­sey’s mother and step­fa­ther on Dec. 17. Now, with Cook­sey, 35, sit­ting in a jail cell await­ing trial — he’s pleaded not guilty to eight counts of mur­der and other felonies — La­tor­rie’s heart­bro­ken mother is speak­ing out to honor her son and re­veal why she has for­given the man she be­lieves is his killer. “I couldn’t sleep be­fore. I was toss­ing and turn­ing. I had to for­give the guy that did this to my child in or­der for me to heal

inside,” An­thia tells In Touch in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view. Though she’s still griev­ing and can’t bring her­self to say Cook­sey’s name, she says, “If I need to be healed, I can­not har­bor hate. Hate de­stroys you. Our hearts are too small for hav­ing hate inside.”

PUZ­ZLING QUES­TIONS But the an­guished mother of four, owner of a Caribbean condi­ment line called An­thia’s Sauces and Spices, wants an­swers. “You still have to ask: Why?” she says. Ac­cord­ing to An­thia, po­lice told her the gun used to kill Cook­sey’s par­ents also was used to shoot her son. Though it was later de­ter­mined that Cook­sey might have known some of his al­leged vic­tims — who in­clude a se­cu­rity guard, an al­leged drug dealer and the brother of an ex-girl­friend — “the po­lice said there was no con­nec­tion [ be­tween him and La­tor­rie],” she says. In her quest for an­swers, she’s even tried to reach out to Cook­sey but was turned down by his lawyer. “I want to ask him, ‘ What did he do to de­serve to die? Did you know him? Did you know his dreams that you just took away sense­lessly?’”

She may never make sense of the tragedy. Cook­sey has a dark past, in­clud­ing abuse as a child, ac­cord­ing to re­ports. At 18, he was convicted of man­slaugh­ter af­ter be­ing in­volved in a bar rob­bery gone wrong and spent nearly 14 years in prison, then more time in and out of jail un­til his most re­cent re­lease in July 2017. An­thia, 53, says his sad past is one rea­son she’s for­given the wannabe rap­per: “He was a vic­tim when he was grow­ing up. He did not care about him­self, he did not love him­self.”

But he still has to face jus­tice — and she hopes prose­cu­tors will seek life in prison if he is convicted. “I don’t be­lieve in the death penalty. I do not be­lieve in killing a per­son for killing some­body,” says An­thia, who has estab­lished a schol­ar­ship, La­tor­rie’s Cause, to ben­e­fit kids whose par­ents have died from vi­o­lence (through go­fundme.com/ la­tor­ri­escause, she’d raised $900 of her $13,000 goal at press time). “La­tor­rie did not have any chil­dren of his own,” she ex­plains. “This is one way of keep­ing his mem­ory alive.” And though she knows it will be tough, she plans to face Cook­sey at his as-yet-un­sched­uled trial. “I want to see the per­son who killed my child,” she says, sob­bing. “I want him to ac­cept what he did and help other young guys not fall into the trap he fell into. I want him to un­der­stand that I for­give him.” ◼

PRIME SUS­PECT “I feel re­lief that he’s been caught,” An­thia says of Cleo­phus Cook­sey Jr., who was ar­rested at his mur­dered par­ents’ apart­ment on Dec. 17.

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