ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- A local crime victim is going viral after allegedly taking control of the social media accounts of a person who was trying to steal his car.
According to the posts on a Facebook account belonging to Elizabeth Cooke, the victim interrupted Cooke attempting to steal his car, and filmed the encounter. In the videos, recorded August 4, the man finds Cooke reportedly trying to get into the steering column on his car and confronts her. She claimed her friend sent her over there to get his car because hers broke down, and apologizes, saying she has the wrong vehicle.
Before the video ends, the man holding the camera asks her to remove her mask so he can record her face, and she does.
Those videos were uploaded later to Cooke’s Facebook account, which the victim said he gained access to when Cooke hurriedly left the scene, leaving her phone behind. There were initial claims that when he reported the incident to police, they would not take the phone as evidence, so he kept it and began going through its contents. St. Louis police did take a report about the incident, however they say a phone was collected at the scene.
“Our Department is aware of the incident, and a report was taken. We can also confirm a phone was seized at the time of the report,” a spokesperson with the department said.
The man with Cooke’s phone, who has remained anonymous, told the Riverfront Times he gained access to the phone by permission from Cooke’s fiancé, and saved all the information he could. He also told RFT he handed the phone over to the police once he was told the phone was reported stolen.
Armed with the contents of the phone, he began posting to Cooke’s Facebook account, changing her bio to “works at stealing,” and adding “Car Thief” to her display name. He then began posting a series of messages he found within the Facebook Messenger app in which Cooke appears to be discussing a number of crimes with various accomplices. Most of the posts are related to thefts or drugs, and the person in control of Cooke’s account began posting the information he found, reportedly to help victims of thefts recover stolen goods.
The posts soon gained traction, with a group of people coming together online to help solve thefts using internet research.
He soon discovered something more serious, however, when he found a video of Cooke talking about a man named Bobby Phillips. Cooke said Phillips, who died the day the video was recorded, had been in prison for 43 years for murder, and the two had met days prior.
News 4 checked court records in the Peoria, Illinois area where Phillips lived and found convictions for burglary and unlawful use of a firearm. One of Phillips' daughters, who asked to remain anonymous, said her father was never convicted of murder and didn't have the traumatic childhood experiences that Cooke spoke about in the video.
"She's a liar and she's intentionally trying to make herself look better about it because that's definitely not how he grew up," said the woman.
However further posts reveal Cooke had photos of Phillips’ social security card, birth certificate, and ID, along with documents showing he signed his power of attorney over to Cooke and named her as the sole beneficiary in his will.
Soon, the story captured national internet attention, with several groups forming to help investigate what happened to Phillips, many with thousands of members.
In a later post, there appears to be a form pertaining to Phillips’ cremation at Hoffen Funeral Home in Granite City. A staffer at the funeral home confirms Phillips’ remains were there, and that he had been at the St. Louis City morgue for “a long time” before being sent to them. The form posted to Facebook shows Phillips died on January 1, but was not cremated until March 14.
The staffer said Phillips’s body was sent to them after no one claimed his remains, and they cremated him as part of a partnership they have with local charities. Elizabeth Cooke claimed Phillips’ ashes, according to the funeral home, and left an address with them that matches documents uploaded to her Facebook account.
The St. Louis City Medical Examiner’s office confirmed Phillips’s body was there from January until March, and said his death was ruled an accident, with underlying heart conditions being “exacerbated by methamphetamines.” The death occurred just days after Phillips changed his will to name Cooke as the beneficiary.
Cooke has been in custody in Macoupin County for two days, having been arrested August 11 for driving a stolen car and possession of methamphetamines. The posts from the man in control of her account began on August 6. She is currently being held on $25,000 bond and is represented by a public defender.
As for the crimes posted to her account and the suspicious nature of her relationship to Phillips and his death, police say they are looking into it but can’t comment further.
“Our Department is looking into the other alleged incidents; however, we cannot confirm/deny or provide any additional information as the investigations are ongoing,” SLMPD said.
Editor's Note: As of 5 p.m. Friday, Cooke's Facebook account has been locked and none of the content is available. However, the person running that account posted much of the same content to a YouTube channel. We have replaced the Facebook posts in the story with the YouTube videos.