“Facebook killer” Steve Stephens has been found after a nationwide manhunt. Despite reports Stephens had gotten as far as Philadelphia, it appears he only went as far as Erie, PA, before turning his gun on himself.
Erie police have confirmed that a body found in a white Ford Focus is the body of Stephens. Stephens was being hunted for broadcasting and seemingly perpetrating the murder of 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr. on a Cleveland street, in what appears to have been a random killing with no motive on Sunday. Stephens fled the scene and his cell phone reportedly offered its last contact with a network in Erie. It appears that once Stephens realized he had been found by police, he pulled over and shot himself rather than be taken.
This will end the manhunt, but questions remain about Stephens, why he chose to commit a random murder, and why he chose to broadcast it on Facebook for the world to see. What won’t be questioned is the pain felt by the family of Godwin, who have spent the last few days struggling with the death of a loved one broadcast around the world. Godwin’s family have said they’ve forgiven Stephens, but that’s just the start of what will be a long road.
Who is Facebook Killer?
CLEVELAND, Ohio — The calls that came in to police Sunday afternoon seemed unbelievable. Numerous people were watching a man ranting about his miserable life live on Facebook and threatening to kill someone at random. And then he did just that.
In the videos Steve Stephens, 37, took during and after the Easter Sunday Facebook killing, he seemed calm and even laughs about the pain and fear he knew he would cause the city.
His victim — Robert Godwin Jr., a 74-year-old father of nine and grandfather of 14 — just happened to walk into the path of the deranged gunman about 2 p.m. on East 93rd Street, just south of Interstate 90 in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood. Stephens filmed the shooting and posted it to his Facebook page.
(Editor’s note: Late Sunday, a Facebook representative confirmed that the video of the shooting was not broadcast live as indicated in an earlier version of this story. The video was recorded and uploaded.)
Stephens’ Facebook was deactivated about three hours after Godwin was killed, but the videos were grabbed and shared by news outlets across the world and posted onto YouTube.
In the moments leading up to the shooting, Stephens pulls his car up to a curb on East 93rd Street, near the intersection with Carr Avenue, and calmly said, «I found somebody I’m about to kill. I’m going to kill this guy right here. He’s an old dude, too.»
Stephens got out of the car and approached Godwin, saying, «Hey can you do me a favor?» and asked him to say his girlfriend’s name. Godwin appeared confused but said the woman’s name.
Stephens then pulled a handgun and pointed it at Godwin’s head, telling him that the woman is the reason why he was about to shoot him. Godwin’s hands went up to shield him and pleaded with Stephens, saying, «Look, I don’t know anybody by that name!»
Stephens fired one fatal shot at Godwin’s head, and he zooms in on Godwin’s bloody body on the sidewalk before walking back to his car and getting inside.
Cleveland police started receiving calls about Godwin’s killing after the Facebook video aired, Cleveland police spokeswoman Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia said.
Authorities searched all night for a white newer-model Ford Fusion with a temporary tag of E363630, though Cleveland police Chief Calvin Williams said at a Sunday evening news conference that the plates may have been changed.
In a second five-minute video after the shooting, Stephens is seen on the phone with an unidentified person. Stephens encourages him to go onto Facebook and watch the shooting.
He then begins explaining to the person on the telephone about why he shot Godwin, saying «I’m at the point where I snapped,» and that no one ever took his problems seriously when he tried to talk them out.
«I shamed myself. I snapped, I snapped. I just snapped, I just killed 13 motherf******, man,» Stephens says on the phone. «I’m about to keep killing until they catch me, f*** it. I’m telling them to catch me.»
In the video, Stephens also mentions that he works for Beech Brook, a Cleveland organization that provides counseling services for youth. He was wearing his name badge in the videos that identified him as a Beech Brook employee.
He also takes a moment in the second video to blame the killings on his girlfriend, saying that he woke up on Friday and just decided that he had enough.
«Now I’m just massacring people,» Stephens said with a laugh.
The woman repeatedly mentioned in the first and second videos is fully cooperating with law enforcement, a senior law enforcement official told cleveland.com.
Though Stephens has claimed that he killed more than a dozen people, Cleveland police have said that Godwin is Stephens’ only known victim. Williams and Mayor Frank Jackson have continued to urge Stephens to turn himself in.
«Whatever concerns or problems that he’s having, we’re here to have a conversation with him,» Jackson said.
Stephens is considered armed and dangerous and should not be approached if he is spotted. Anyone with information about Stephen’s whereabouts should immediately call 911, Williams said.