Nationwide manhunt on to catch 'Facebook killer' - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Nationwide manhunt on to catch ‘Facebook killer’

Steve Stephens posted on Facebook a video showing him fatally shooting Robert Godwin Sr., 74, on Easter Sunday. Credit:(Facebook/Steve Stephens)

WASHINGTON – An intense manhunt continued Monday for a man whom Cleveland police say shot dead a great-grandfather whom he did not know on Easter Sunday because he was upset with his girlfriend, then posted the video on Facebook for three hours before it was taken down.

Steve Stephens, 37, taped the killing of Robert Godwin Sr., 74, after stopping him randomly on a street at about 2 p.m. EDT Sunday, police said.

Stephens claimed in the video to have committed several other people but authorities have not found any more victims.

“We’re still asking Steve to turn himself in but if he doesn’t, we’ll find him,” Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said confidently at a news conference Monday morning. “We’re not going to stop until he’s in custody.”

“Last night officers searched dozens of locations based on leads, based on investigative information from our team out there that they’ve uncovered, to no avail. We know that Steve is somewhere out there someplace. We don’t know his condition. Unfortunately, right now, we don’t know his location. We are asking the public to remain vigilant. We’re asking you to go about your day but be careful.”

“We don’t want people to panic,” he added.

Stephens said Sunday on Facebook that he had committed an “Easter day slaughter” but the police chief said no other victims have been found.

Williams said friends and family of Stephens have been cooperative. He warned that it was a felony to aid Stephens in avoiding arrest.

Hours earlier, police tweeted that an aggravated murder warrant had been issued for Stephens and warned residents of Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana and Michigan to also be on alert.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen Anthony said at the news conference that “all federal, state and local partners are working side-by-side to do everything humanly possible to find Mr. Stephens.”

Anthony said “obviously this individual is armed and dangerous, and quite frankly at this this point he could be a lot of places.

“He could be nearby, he could be far away, or anywhere in between.”

He urged people to phone in any tips to 800-CALL-FBI.

“The goal here is to find Mr. Stephens before any other crimes are committed,” Anthony said.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson urged Stephens to turn himself in to police and not to “do any more harm to anybody.”

“Any problems he is having, we can have a conversation,” Jackson said at the news conference.

Meanwhile, Stephens’ employer, Beach Brook, a children’s mental health center in Cleveland, said its offices are closed on Monday “out of concerns for the safety of our staff, clients, and other visitors to our sites.”

Beach Brook said Stephens has been employed with the organization since 2008.

“He has been working as a vocational specialist for our Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team for youth and young adults. since April of 2015. Prior to that, he had worked as a youth mentor,” the statement said.

Stephens is described as a 6-foot 1-inch African-American man who weighs 244 pounds and has a bald head and full beard. He was reported to be driving a white, late-model Ford Fusion with temporary Ohio tags. He was last seen wearing a dark blue and gray or black striped polo shirt.

Robert Godwin, 74, a father of nine, is pictured with daughter Debbie Godwin. (credit: Debbie Godwin)

In the shaky video, Stephens is driving his car then pulls over and appears to randomly approach Godwin, who was walking on a sidewalk carrying a plastic bag.

“Find me somebody I’m about to kill, I’m gonna kill this guy right here,” Stephens says as he gets out of his car. “The older dude.” He walks up to Godwin and asks him to “do me a favor” by saying “Joy Lane.” Stephens adds, “Joy Lane — she’s the reason this is about to happen to you.”

Stephens then asks Godwin his age, and a puzzled Godwin says he doesn’t know Joy Lane. Stephens then points the gun at Godwin’s head and pulls the trigger, as Godwin tries to shield his head with the plastic bag. Godwin falls to the ground and blood can be seen on the sidewalk.

Stephens gets back into his car and drives off.

The video was online for about three hours before Facebook removed it.

“This is a horrific crime and we don’t not allow this kind of content on Facebook,” the company said in a statement.

Godwin’s family has urged people to not post or share the video. The family also warned the public that several GoFundMe accounts have already been set up in his name but none are legitimate.

Authorities on Sunday said that in a series of posts on Stephens’ Facebook page he said he had “lost everything” to gambling.

According to Joy Lane’s LinkedIn page, she previously worked as a case manager and therapist at Beech Brook – Stephen’s employer – and for the past nine months has been employed as a clinical supervisor for Murtis Taylor Human Services System.

Lane’s LinkedIn page says she has a master of science degree from Case Western Reserve University.

Lane told CBS News in a text message: “We had been in a relationship for several years. I am sorry that all of this has happened. My heart & prayers goes out to the family members of the victim(s). 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. Please respect our privacy at this time.”

Cleveland.com reported that Robert Godwin Jr. said his father was a retired foundry worker who had nine children, 14 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. Godwin said his father was out looking for aluminum cans for recycling when Stephens approached him.

This article was first published by Talk Media News. It is republished with permission.


About the author

Regina Holmes

Regina Holmes has more than two decades of experience as a journalist –editing and reporting for news dailies including the Miami Herald, Newsday and the Baltimore Examiner. She also launched an award-winning investigative news website that tackled police and political corruption in Baltimore. She has worked as a consultant for the World Bank and Baltimore County Public Schools. Regina became a journalist because even as a child she was fascinated by the power of the press: how it could force a president out of office, elect a president, expose corruption, and shine a light on discrimination. She is passionate about giving a voice to people who are disenfranchised, ignored or powerless, including people of color, senior citizens, the impoverished, people with disabilities, veterans, and children. Issues in which she is particularly interested include race relations, criminal justice, and police brutality. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Vassar College and a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. She is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists. In her spare time, Regina enjoys traveling,antiquing, window-shopping for carsand watching HGTV. Contact the author.
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