ERIE, Penn. — Steve Stephens, the Cleveland murder suspect who posted video of the slaying on Facebook, killed himself in Pennsylvania after a police chase, officers said Tuesday.
Someone spotted Stephens’ white Ford Fusion in the parking lot of a McDonald’s near Erie and called authorities, Pennsylvania State Police said.
Stephens fled, and state troopers started a pursuit. One trooper performed a “PIT” maneuver — a strategic way of ramming a vehicle to disable it.
“As the vehicle was spinning out of control from the PIT maneuver, Stephens pulled a pistol and shot himself in the head,” Pennsylvania State Police said.
For two days, authorities across the country scrambled to find Stephens, the man wanted for the death of Robert Godwin — a self-taught mechanic and grandfather of 14.
“We’re grateful that this has ended,” Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said. “We would prefer that it had not ended this way because there are a lot of questions, I’m sure, that not only the family but the city in general would have had for Steve.”
Godwin’s daughter Brenda Haymon learned of Stephens’ death as she was planning funeral arrangements for her father.
“All I can say is that I wish he had gone down in a hail of 100 bullets,” Haymon told CNN. “I wish it had gone down like that instead of him shooting himself.”
Godwin, 74, was shot Sunday while walking home from an Easter meal with his children in Cleveland. Stephens later posted video of the elderly man’s death on Facebook.
Victim’s family offered forgiveness
Through their tears, several of Godwin’s children said they held no animosity against Stephens.
“Each one of us forgives the killer, the murderer,” Godwin’s daughter Tonya Godwin Baines said Monday.
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.
Suspect cited anger with his girlfriend
The police chief said Stephens apparently chose Godwin at random.
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 be 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 claimed on Facebook that he had committed multiple homicides, but police said they had no knowledge of other victims. He had many traffic violations but no criminal record, Williams 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.
Victim was celebrating Easter
Robert Godwin was walking home from a holiday meal with his family when he encountered the gunman on a sidewalk.
Haymon, Godwin’s youngest child from his first marriage, said he was the father of 10.
“He lived a good life,” she said. “He’s a man people should model themselves after.”