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Bensalem teen charged in homicide after showing body on Instagram video call, police say

Joshua Cooper, 16, was charged as an adult with criminal homicide, possessing instruments of crime, and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.

File picture of police crime-scene tape.
File picture of police crime-scene tape.Read moreAlejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer

Bensalem police charged a 16-year-old township resident with homicide after the teen allegedly told an acquaintance on an Instagram video chat that he killed someone, showed the bloody scene, and asked for help in cleaning it up and disposing of the body.

Shortly after 4 p.m. Friday, police received a 911 call from a woman who said her daughter had received an Instagram video call from an acquaintance, later identified as Joshua Cooper, who said he had just killed someone, police said Saturday. The caller then flipped the video image, showing the legs and feet of someone covered in blood, police said.

After the call, Cooper texted the caller’s daughter asking that she come help him clean up the scene and get rid of the body, according to the affidavit of probable cause for his arrest.

Police went to Cooper’s home in the Top of the Ridge Trailer Park on the 1400 block of Gibson Road in Bensalem, where, they said, they saw Cooper run out of the back of the mobile home as they arrived. Inside the trailer, police said, officers found a 13-year-old girl dead on the bathroom floor with an apparent gunshot wound to the chest, and evidence that “substantial steps were taken to clean up the crime scene.”

At the scene, police also found a gun safe and a holster without a gun in it in a back bedroom, according to the affidavit.

Cooper was apprehended a short time later in a nearby wooded area. As he was taken into custody, the affidavit states, Cooper told police “it was an accident” and added that he is “going to jail for the rest of [his] life.” He later told police that “[his] dad is going to kill [him],” the affidavit states.

Following the arrest, police spoke with Cooper and his mother at the Bensalem Township Police Department. Cooper told investigators that on the morning of the killing, he was cleaning out his father’s safe, removing and reorganizing the firearms and sorting the ammunition inside it, according to the affidavit. He accessed the safe “by replacing the batteries that his father had removed, which had made the combination lock inoperable,” the affidavit states.

The victim texted Cooper on Friday morning, and was dropped off at his home after Cooper had finished reorganizing his father’s safe and firearms, the affidavit states. The two teens stayed at Cooper’s home Friday afternoon and watched a Netflix series.

Cooper told investigators that at some point during the afternoon, the victim left the area where they were watching TV to use the bathroom, and that Cooper did not accompany her. Shortly after speaking with police about the victim going to the bathroom, Cooper and his mother terminated the interview with authorities, according to the affidavit.

The girl’s identity had not been released as of Saturday afternoon. Family members identified her by jewelry she was wearing at the time of her death, according to the affidavit.

Cooper was charged with criminal homicide, possessing instruments of crime, and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence. He was charged as an adult but sent to the Edison Juvenile Detention Center, where he is being held without bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 7, court records indicate.

Pennsylvania law requires juveniles to be charged as adults for homicide and other violent crimes. Juvenile defendants can request to have their case transferred to juvenile court but must prove that doing so would “serve the public interest,” the law states.

Detective Sgt. Glenn Vandegrift, a spokesperson for Bensalem police, said the department is grateful that the teen who received the Instagram call did the right thing by contacting a parent right away.