Former youth minister pleads guilty to molesting young boys

Luke Cooke

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A man will serve 11-and-a-half years in prison after pleading guilty to rape and aggravated sexual battery.

Luke Cooke, 34, said he is guilty of sexually molesting an 8-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy between 2003 and 2006.

He was the youth minister at the local church where the complaints were made, authorities said.

Cooke was indicted for the crimes in 2007, but before officers could arrest him, he disappeared.

He was extradited from Albania in September 2015 after nine years on the run, which included stops in China, Morocco and Spain.

The sentence was negotiated as part of a settlement approved by Criminal Court Judge W. Mark Ward. Cooke will serve it concurrently with a separate federal sentence of 11-and-a-half years, which was handed down last week in the U.S. District Court. He received the federal sentence after he pleaded guilty to interstate transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity involving a child.

Cooke will also be under supervision for life and will be placed on the sex offender registry.