A Cleveland man who fatally shot an elderly grandfather and posted a video of the murder on Facebook has shot and killed himself Tuesday morning in Erie County, Pennsylvania state police confirmed.
After a three-day multi-state manhunt, Pennsylvania State Police spotted Steve Stephens. After a brief pursuit, Stephens killed himself.
Steve Stephens was spotted this morning by PSP members in Erie County. After a brief pursuit, Stephens shot and killed himself.
— PA State Police (@PAStatePolice) April 18, 2017
Stephens, 37, was wanted for the death of Robert Godwin – a self-taught mechanic and grandfather of 14 – who was shot while walking home from an Easter meal Sunday in Cleveland.
Earlier, reported sighting of Stephens in Philadelphia turned out to be false. So did reported sightings in Baltimore, police said.
Authorities had searched Cleveland’s abandoned buildings while hoping a $50,000 reward will spur anyone with information about Stephens’ location to come forward.
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said in a press conference Tuesday morning investigators have received nearly 400 tips from across the nation and continue to follow up on every lead.
Special Agent Stephen Anthony, who is in charge of the FBI’s Cleveland division, said Tuesday there is a federal warrant out for Stephens’ arrest that any officer or agent in the country can carry out.
He also urged the public to call investigators with any information they have that may have the slightest connection to the case. He said someone could have a key piece of evidence and not know it. He said it’s better for investigators to be aware of as many details as possible to narrow the space in which they are searching for Stephens.
Peter Elliott, who leads the United States Marshals Service in the Northern District of Ohio, said Tuesday that it could take days, weeks or years before suspects like Stephens are found. He also said some suspects have killed themselves after going on the run. Williams said the length of the search depends on the individual and whether he is receiving assistance. Again, he asked the public to come forward.
“Either he’s dead somewhere or someone’s holding him up somewhere else,” Elliott said, when asked his opinion on where Stephens is.
A broken heart
A phone call. Then a scream on the other end. That’s how Tammy Godwin found out that her father had been shot to death.
“My mom … called my house phone. When I picked up the phone she was screaming,” she told CNN’s Don Lemon on Monday night. “And she said, ‘Your father is dead.'”
Godwin said after getting that call she ran down to her mother’s house, just a few doors down, not being able to fully comprehend the news she was just told.
“He took our dad. I can’t believe I’m never going to talk to my father no more,” she said, in tears. “I can’t believe I’m never going to be able to call my father no more. My heart is just broke.”
Tammy Godwin wanted to make sure her father’s killer knew just what was taken from them – a good man who was the rock of his family.
One of Robert Godwin’s sons said he was greatly disturbed by how the killer carried out his awful deed.
“What happened to my father was horrific,” Robby Miller said. “I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. The man who videotaped my father getting shot stripped him of his dignity. And to post it online for the whole world to see? I’m just angry.”
Miller stressed, though, that despite their hurt and anger, the family wants justice, not vengeance.
“No, I don’t want that man to die, I want him brought to justice,” he said. “One thing I do want to say, is that I forgive (the killer).”
Miller urged the suspect to turn himself in, saying he’d done enough damage.
Through their tears, several of Godwin’s children said they hold no animosity against the suspect.
“Each one of us forgives the killer, the murderer,” Godwin’s daughter Tonya Godwin-Baines said. “We want to wrap our arms around him.”
Godwin taught his children the value of hard work. He taught them how to love God and fear God, and how to forgive, his children said.
“They don’t make men like him anymore. He was definitely one in a million,” said another daughter, Debbie Godwin.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson thanked Godwin’s family Tuesday, for their leadership and their forgiveness of Stephens despite the trauma he has caused them.
“We are proud of them,” Jackson said. “Thank you for showing us the way.”
Jackson said the clergy implored Stephens to reach out to them, if he needs their help. He said Stephens had spoken to a local pastor before the murder.
Suspect cited anger with his girlfriend
Williams has said Stephens apparently chose Godwin at random. Williams said Tuesday, to date, police have not found any more victims.
Stephens’ mother, Maggie Green, said her son stopped by her house Saturday and gave her a cryptic message.
“He said this (was) the last time I was going to see him,” Green said.
They spoke briefly the next day, his mother said. Before Green’s phone died, Stephens told her he was “shooting people” because he was “mad with his girlfriend” of about three years, his mother said.
Later Sunday, Stephens uploaded a video to his Facebook page showing a gun pointed at a man’s head.
Seconds before the shooting, Stephens asked the victim to say the name of a woman believed to associated with the suspect.
“She’s the reason why this is about to happen to you,” Stephens said.
Then, the gunman fires the weapon. The victim recoils and falls to the ground.
Stephens is a black male who is 6-foot-1 and weighs 244 pounds. He was last seen wearing a dark blue and gray or black striped polo shirt. He was driving a white Ford Fusion with temporary license plates, Cleveland police said.
Stephens claimed on Facebook that he had committed multiple homicides, but police said they had no knowledge of other victims. He has many traffic violations but no criminal record, Williams said.
“Obviously, he’s got deep, deep issues,” the police chief said.
Woman cited by suspect is ‘overwhelmed’
The woman believed to be associated with the suspect has told multiple news agencies that she was “overwhelmed” by the tragedy.
“Steve really is a nice guy… He is generous with everyone he knows. He was kind and loving to me and my children,” she told CBS News.
Williams said police have spoken to the woman, and she is safe and cooperating with the investigation. The woman’s neighbors told CNN that Stephens often stayed at her Twinsburg home with her three young girls. One resident said Stephens was there two days ago, fixing the home’s garage.
Suspect worked with children
Stephens was employed at Beech Brook, a behavioral health agency in northeastern Ohio that serves children, teenagers and families, according to a spokeswoman for the facility.
“We are shocked and horrified like everyone else,” said Nancy Kortemeyer. “To think that one of our employees could do this is awful.”
She said Stephens was a vocational specialist who worked with youth and young adults. He had previously worked as a youth mentor, she said.
Brenda Haymon, Godwin’s youngest child from his first marriage, said he was the father of 10.
“He lived a good life. He’s a man people should model themselves after,” she said.
WLS-TV contributed to this report.
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