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Suspect in Facebook video murder shoots himself to death in Pa.

Written by Mark Gillespie/The Associated Press | Apr 18, 2017 12:17 PM
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This undated photo provided by the Cleveland Police shows Steve Stephens. (Cleveland Police via AP)


(Erie) --  The man who randomly killed a Cleveland retiree and posted video of the crime on Facebook shot himself to death in his car Tuesday during a police chase in Pennsylvania, ending a multistate manhunt less than 48 hours after it began.

Acting on a tip, Pennsylvania State Police spotted Steve Stephens, 37, leaving a McDonald's in Erie and went after him, bumping his car to try to get it to stop, authorities said. He shot himself in the head as the car spun out of control, police said.

"This started with one tragedy and ended with another person taking their own life," said Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams. "We would have liked to have brought Steve in peacefully and really talked to him about why this happened."

Stephens, a job counselor who worked with teenagers and young people, was wanted on murder charges in the shooting of Robert Godwin Sr., a 74-year-old former foundry worker and father of 10 who was picking up aluminum cans on Sunday when he was gunned down.

The chilling video was posted on Facebook for three hours before it was taken down, drawing criticism of the social network and renewing questions about how responsibly it polices objectionable material.
At a Silicon Valley conference Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg briefly addressed the Cleveland case, saying Facebook has "a lot of work to do" and "we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this."

Police would not speculate on what was behind the killing, but in the video and other footage he posted, Stephens talked about losing everything he had to gambling and having trouble with his girlfriend. He said he "just snapped."

One of Godwin's daughters, Debbie Godwin, said she wished Stephens had been captured.

"I'm not happy he's dead at all, not at all. If you did it, you have to face your crime," she said.

The break in the case came when police received a tip that Stephens' car was in the McDonald's parking lot in Erie, in the northwestern corner of the state, about 100 miles east of Cleveland, authorities said.

The chase lasted 2 miles before Stephens took his own life, police said.

Law enforcement officials had said on Monday that Stephens' cellphone was last tracked Sunday afternoon near Erie.

The police chief said Tuesday that it wasn't clear whether Stephens had any help while he was on the run or where he had been and that investigators will try to retrace he steps.

Facebook said it removed the video of the shooting 23 minutes after learning of it. The company has since announced it is launching a review for reporting harmful content.

"This is something that should not have been shared around the world. Period," Cleveland's police chief said.
In the video, Stephens told Godwin the name of his girlfriend and said, "She's the reason that this is about to happen to you." Godwin did not seem to recognize the name.

Investigators said that Godwin was the only victim so far linked to Stephens, despite his claim on Facebook that he killed over a dozen people.

Detectives spoke with the suspect on Sunday by cellphone and tried to persuade him to surrender, police said. Within a day, authorities expanded the search nationwide and offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to his capture.
___

*This story has been updated. A prior version appears below.*

(Cleveland) -- The man who randomly killed a Cleveland retiree and posted video of the crime on Facebook shot himself to death earlier today in Pennsylvania.

Steve Stephens was spotted just after 11:00 a.m. this morning in Erie County, in the commonwealth's northwest corner, by a citizen near the intersection of Buffalo Road and Downing Avenue. The location is less than two miles from Troop E headquarters.

Trroopers immediately began to canvas the area and located him in his vehicle a short time later. In marked patrol cars, they initiated a pursuit that lasted about two miles. The troopers attempted a maneuver to disable Stephens' white Ford Fusion. As the vehicle was spinning out of control from the maneuver, Stephens pulled a pistol and shot himself in the head. A trooper involved with the pursuit could not stop in time and slid into Stephens' vehicle causing minor damage.

It wasn't immediately clear where Stephens had been since the Sunday shooting in Cleveland, which killed a 74-year-old retired man.  

Williams says investigators had hoped to talk with Stephens to find out a motive. 

Stephens was wanted on an aggravated murder charge in the shooting death of a 74-year-old man who was picking up aluminum cans on Sunday after spending Easter with his family.

He posted a video of himself killing Robert Godwin Sr., a former foundry worker who had 10 children, police said. In it, he said, "I snapped, I just snapped."

Stephens, 37, shared a recording on Sunday of himself announcing his plan to kill someone, then two minutes later posted another video of himself shooting and killing Godwin, Facebook said. A few minutes after that, he went live and confessed, the company said.

The company said it disabled Stephen's account within 23 minutes of receiving the first report about the video of the fatal shooting and two hours after receiving any report.

Facebook has since announced it was launching a review for reporting harmful content.

Cleveland Police hold a news conference after Pennsylvania State Police confirm that Steve Stephens, who is suspected of killing a Cleveland man and posting video of the murder on Facebook, killed himself during a chase in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Police would not speculate on what was behind the killing, but videos Stephens posted showed him talking about losing everything he had to gambling and trouble with his girlfriend.

Stephens filed for bankruptcy two years ago despite holding down a job as a counselor helping young people develop job skills and find employment. The behavioral health agency where he worked said an extensive background check before he was hired turned up nothing worrisome.

In one video posted on Facebook, Stephens said that he gambled away everything and that he and his girlfriend had planned to marry but did not, without saying why.

In the video of the shooting, Stephens told Godwin the name of his girlfriend and said, "She's the reason that this is about to happen to you." Godwin did not seem to recognize the name.

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Alexis Lee, a childhood friend of Steve Stephens, speaks with a neighbor near Stephens' childhood home in Cleveland, Ohio, Monday, April 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Dake Kang)

The woman Stephens spoke of, Joy Lane, said in a text message to CBS that "we had been in a relationship for several years. I am sorry that all of this has happened."

Investigators said that Godwin was the only victim so far linked to Stephens, despite his claim on Facebook that he killed over a dozen people.

Officers searched dozens of places around Cleveland without finding Stephens or any other victims before expanding the manhunt. Detectives spoke with the suspect on Sunday by cellphone and tried to persuade him to surrender, police said.

Within a day, authorities expanded the search nationwide and offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to his capture and prosecution.

Law enforcement officials said on Monday that his cellphone was last tracked Sunday afternoon in Erie, about 100 miles east of Cleveland.





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