Facebook killing suspect Steve Stephens found dead with self-inflicted gunshot wound, police say
Cleveland Facebook killing suspect Steve Stephens was found dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound Tuesday morning in Erie County, Pa.
Pennsylvania State Police confirmed the 37-year-old suspect was spotted in Erie County, about 140 kilometres east of Cleveland, Tuesday morning.
“After a brief pursuit, Stephens shot and killed himself,” state police tweeted.
Authorities had expanded the search nationwide for Stephens who was believed to be behind the random killing of an elderly man on Easter Sunday.
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams confirmed at an afternoon press conference that a tip led to the tracking of the suspect.
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“At approximately, a little after 11 a.m. today, Pennsylvania State Police officers received a tip that the vehicle that we were looking for, a white Ford Fusion was in a McDonald’s parking lot in Erie, Pa.,” Williams said. “Those officers responded, the vehicle fled from that area, there was a short pursuit in which the vehicle had stopped. As the officers approached that vehicle Steve Stephens took his own life.”
On Sunday, a video uploaded to Stephens’ Facebook account appeared to show the killing of Robert Godwin Sr., 74, who had been picking up some aluminum cans after spending some time with his children during Easter. In a separate video, Stephens claimed to have carried out over a dozen other murders. No other victims have been found.
Authorities had expanded the search nationwide for Stephens earlier Tuesday.
“We are getting calls from all over the country as far away as Texas,” Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said at a news conference before Stephens’ body was found.
Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson said the finding of the suspect’s body provided some closure to the case.
“I want to again give our condolence to the Godwin family and all of its members and really again to thank them for way in which they handled this very tragic situation not only for them personally, but for the community at large,” the mayor said.
The mayor went on to thank the community and those who called in some of the nearly 400 tips authorities had received on the case.
The shocking video uploaded by Stephens shows him seated in a car as he says, “Found me somebody I’m going to kill — this guy right here, this old dude.” He then exits the vehicle, walks up to Godwin Sr. and mentions the name of a woman, “Joy Lane.” Godwin Sr. doesn’t appear to recognize the woman’s name.
“She’s the reason this is about to happen to you,” Stephens says in the video, before appearing to shoot Godwin Sr. in the head, killing him on the spot.
The woman in question later reached out to CBS News and confirmed that she had been in a relationship with Stephens for several years.
“Steve really is a nice guy… he is generous with everyone he knows. He was kind and loving to me and my children. This is a very difficult time for me and my family,” Lane told CBS News in a text message.
During Tuesday’s press conference, the Cleveland police chief said the sharing of the video on Facebook was something that shouldn’t have happened.
“I think everybody has learned from this, I think the people on social media kind of know the power and I think they know the harm it can do,” Williams said. “We’ve talked before about people not living their lives on social media and being truthful on social media and not harming people via social media.
“This is a prime example. This is something that should not have been shared around the world. Period,” the police chief said.
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Police did not speculate on a motive for the random killing. The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Stephens had filed for bankruptcy two years ago despite holding down a job as a counsellor helping young people develop job skills and find employment.
According to Fox News, the suspect reportedly faced a number of evictions across the state of Ohio and was successfully sued for nearly $2,000 in back rent and was about $35,000 in debt. Stephens also mentioned in a video Sunday that he had gambled his money away.
The suspect was wanted on an aggravated murder charge.
–with a file from Global News reporter Rahul Kalvapalle
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.