Elizabeth Cooke Refused to Leave Airbnb Where Bobby Phillips Died, Community Organizer Says

click to enlarge Elizabeth Cooke extended her 3-week stay in an Airbnb to four months, an organizer says. - RYAN KRULL
Elizabeth Cooke extended her 3-week stay in an Airbnb to four months, an organizer says.

SEE ALSO: Wild Elizabeth Cooke Saga Grips Internet Sleuths in St. Louis and Beyond

In his final days, Bobby Phillips was being helped by same nonprofit where Elizabeth Cooke rented an Airbnb.

Eco Village STL is a community resource center in the Academy neighborhood of north St. Louis that provides the local unhoused population with access to showers, meals and other essentials. Every Friday, it hosts food giveaways. According to Mama Jazz, a community organizer at Eco Village, the nonprofit had also run an Airbnb to help fund their work but recently stopped. The reason, Jazz says, is Cooke.

In the past 48 hours, Cooke’s life has become the focus of a bizarre whirlwind of an internet crime story. A man who claims he interrupted the 35-year-old as she tried to steal his vehicle tells the RFT she left her phone behind, which he used to gain access to her Facebook account. Before the account was shut down this afternoon, he posted volumes of photos, videos and text messages he says showed evidence of a variety of crimes. Thousands of people are now following the saga.

But in early December 2020, Cooke was just another guest, booking the Airbnb at 5155 Kensington for three weeks, Jazz says. Even so, Jazz says she soon regretted it.

“We’re a victim of Elizabeth’s shit also, and that really sucks because we’re a community organization that feeds people and helps people in times of need,” Jazz said. “We’re really not connected to her.”

At first, Cooke seemed OK, although some of her behavior seemed odd, Jazz says. She hoarded boxes full of makeup along with headphones and other electronics, according to Jazz. Cooke told Jazz that she was a dumpster diver and her business was to find thrown-out items and resell them. “She would say, ‘Oh, I'm gonna clean them up and sell them online. But I was like, ‘Dude, this is trash.”’

Around Christmas, Cooke was still in the Airbnb when Bobby Phillips and another man Jazz knew only as JR showed up to Eco Village. Like a lot of unhoused people in the area, Bobby and JR made use of the nonprofit’s food share and shower.

“The two older men pulled our heartstrings,” Jazz says. “They’d just gotten out of jail. It's middle of winter. ‘Yeah, you guys can crash on the couch,’ I said. Not realizing what all of this would later fall into.”

The Airbnb was upstairs in the house, and Eco Village allowed people in need to use first floor. Jazz isn’t exactly sure of how Cooke and Phillips connected to each other, but Phillips was known to hang out on the first floor.

click to enlarge Elizabeth Cooke on the day she was confronted allegedly attempting to steal a car. - SCREEN GRAB FROM VIDEO
Elizabeth Cooke on the day she was confronted allegedly attempting to steal a car.

On January 1, Jazz says, she saw flashing lights outside the house on Kensington and went to see what had happened. In the Airbnb, Phillips was dead on his back in the middle of the room. Jazz says that Cooke claimed Phillips had knocked on her door and then fell dead upon entering the room. Cooke’s behavior struck Jazz as strange. She didn’t seem all that concerned for Phillips; she didn’t seem that worried at all. According to Jazz, the woman now known to followers of the Facebook saga as Gypsy Jen was also on the premises, hiding in a bedroom as the police asked questions.

As the police and EMS began to leave, Jazz asked them why they weren’t taking Phillips’ body with them. They blamed COVID protocols, according to Jazz.

“Well regardless of COVID,” she says she told them. “This is suspicious.”

At that point, Jazz says, “Elizabeth popped up and said, ‘I’ll take care of it. I’ll take care of it because I'm his power of attorney.’”

Given that Cooke and Phillips had met just days before, Jazz says she was suspicious when she heard Phillips had supposedly signed over power of attorney to a new acquaintance. She looked at Cooke, then to the police. “This doesn’t seem weird to you all?” she asked.

Apparently it didn’t. The authorities left Phillips’ body in the Airbnb, leaving it to Jazz to make arrangements for the body to be taken away by a funeral home.

A St. Louis police spokeswoman confirms that officers responded to the Kensington address but says she can’t say more because there is an open investigation. Asked about theft allegations tied to Cooke, the spokeswoman tells the RFT that police are looking into theft allegations but declines to provide additional details, again citing an open investigation.

Eventually, Jazz says, the police retrieved Phillips body from that funeral home and brought it to the city morgue. According to KMOV, “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.’”

After Phillip’s death, Jazz attempted to evict Cooke from the Airbnb but she refused, at first trying to claim “squatter’s rights,” then relying on the city’s eviction moratorium.

As January turned to February, “random dudes who clearly looked like drug addicts” became a constant presence at the Airbnb, Jazz says. “It was always me having to go down there every day telling people to get out of my house.” One night, she corralled as many of Eco Village’s volunteers as she could to go to the Airbnb and kick out a large number of people. Another time, Jazz says, she walked into the Airbnb and saw blatant hard drug use going on.

The only two rules of the Airbnb, Jazz says, were no violence and no hard drugs.

She says Cooke also kept three cats in the Airbnb. Cooke had so much stuff with her, stacked so high, that the cats knocked a pile of headphones and other small electronics into a window, breaking it.

As Jazz continued to try to evict Cooke, she says, she told the St. Louis Sheriff’s Department, “I’m pretty sure they killed this dude at the house.” Still, nothing happened.

Eventually, enough calls had been made to the police about Cooke that they were able to remove Cooke on the grounds of her being a nuisance, Jazz says. Additionally, Jazz says she turned the power off to the house.

Cooke finally departed in March, four months after booking her original three week stay on the property.

Editor's note: This story was updated after publication with additional details from St. Louis police.
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