Search for suspect in Facebook homicide video widens to 5 states
CLEVELAND — A manhunt for a suspect who authorities said killed an elderly man and then posted the video on Facebook expanded outside Ohio, with authorities calling on residents of nearby states to be on alert.
Steve Stephens, 37, is suspected of killing 74-year-old Robert Godwin on Sunday in a residential area east of Cleveland, police said.
An aggravated murder warrant has been issued for Stephens.
Police said Sunday night that Stephens “may be out of state at this time,” and called on residents in Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana and Michigan to be vigilant.
“He is considered armed and dangerous, so we want people to be careful out there,” Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams told reporters.
Stephens 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.
The investigation and search for Stephens began Sunday after several people from outside the Cleveland area reported an alarming Facebook post, police union president Steve Loomis said
Stephens uploaded a video to his Facebook page showing a gun pointed at an unidentified man’s head. The gun is fired, the man recoils and falls to the ground.
The video was posted around 2 p.m. Sunday.
Facebook later disabled access to it.
“We do not allow this kind of content on Facebook. We work hard to keep a safe environment on Facebook, and are in touch with law enforcement in emergencies when there are direct threats to physical safety,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.
Stephens claimed on Facebook that he committed multiple homicides, but police said they have no knowledge of other victims.
As Cleveland Police and the FBI were searching for Stephens on Sunday, over 300 tips poured into the department, police said.
No confirmed sightings of Stephens were reported as the search moved into Monday.
‘If you see me again, it’ll be a miracle’
Stephens’ mother, Maggie Green, told CNN the oldest of her three children came by her house Saturday afternoon.
“He said this is the last time I was going to see him,” recalled Green, 53.
Green, a former clerk at the Justice Center in Cleveland who is now on disability, said she was confused by her son’s words.
“If you see me again, it’ll be a miracle,” she quoted him as saying.
On Sunday, Green learned about the shooting when her youngest son told her about the video.
She was “just dumbfounded” and called Stephens. They spoke briefly but her phone died, Green said.
When asked what message she wanted to relay to her son, Green said: “I want him to call me.”
Suspect was ‘mad at his girlfriend’
When Green spoke with her son on Sunday, he told her he was “shooting people” because he was “mad with his girlfriend” of about three years.
Police have not talked about a possible motive behind the shooting of Godwin. They said Stephens and Godwin didn’t know each other.
“From what we can tell now, it’s just a random person that he picked out. We don’t know why,” Williams said.
Stephens is employed at Beech Brook, a behavioral health agency in northeast 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, a spokeswoman for Beech Brook. “To think that one of our employees could do this is awful.”
Kortemeyer could not provide any details on the length of Stephens’ employment at Beech Brook, nor his specific job title. But Stephens’ mother said he is a social worker.
Victim was ‘a good man’
Robert Godwin was walking on the sidewalk when he met Stephens.
Godwin was on his way home from an Easter meal at his children’s home when he was killed, CNN affiliate WOIO reported.
“He is a good guy. … He’d give you the shirt off his back, and I’m not just saying that for these cameras,” Robert Godwin Jr. told WOIO.
“This man right here was a good man. I hate he’s gone … I don’t know what I’m going to do. … It’s not real.”