Tuesday, 17 May 2016 15:11

Former Youth Minister Pleads Guilty to Sex Offenses

Luke Cooke Luke Cooke SCSO
MEMPHIS – May 17, 2016 - A former youth minister who was extradited last year from Albania after spending nine years travelling abroad pled guilty Tuesday to sexually molesting two young boys in between 2003 and 2006, said Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich.
Luke Cooke, 34, who pled guilty to rape and aggravated sexual battery, was sentenced to 11½ years in prison under a negotiated settlement approved by Criminal Court Judge W. Mark Ward.
The sentence will run concurrently with a federal sentence of 11½ years he received last week in U.S. District Court. He will be remanded to the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. He also will be under Community Supervision for life and will be placed on the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry.
Cooke pled guilty to federal charges of interstate transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity involving a child, said Asst. U.S. Atty. Debra Ireland, coordinator of the Project Safe Childhood initiative.
He pled guilty Tuesday to raping a 14-year-old boy in January of 2003 and to fondling an 8-year-old boy in May of 2006. Both incidents occurred in Memphis while he was a youth minister.
Cooke fled to China later in 2006 when allegations of sexual misconduct arose. He lived there and then travelled through Morocco, Spain and elsewhere before he was apprehended at the Turkey/Albania border in April of last year.
The U.S. Marshals Task Force had been searching for – and helped locate - Cooke at the request of the DA’s Office, which also enlisted the help and cooperation of the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Memphis Police Department, the Office of International Affairs, Homeland Security and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.
“This is a great example of multiple agencies working together to bring an international fugitive and sex offender to justice,” said Gen. Weirich.
In April of 2015 he was taken into custody in Albania on fugitive warrants and extradited to Memphis in September through the efforts of the U.S. Marshals, U.S. State Department, Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Memphis Police Department, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and the DA’s Office.
The case Tuesday was handled by Asst. Dist. Atty. Bryce Phillips and by Carrie Shelton, chief prosecutor for the DA’s Special Victims Unit which prosecutes cases of child sexual abuse and severe physical abuse of child victims; rape and aggravated rape of adult victims, and abuse of elderly and vulnerable adults.
SVU reviews child-victim cases with Shelby County’s multi-agency Child Protection Investigative Team.