Two days after committing murder on Sunday, April 16, 2017, Steve Stephens, 37, shot himself in the head after being pursued by state troopers in Erie, Pennsylvania.
At his time of death, Stephens was wanted for the murder of Robert Godwin Sr., aged 74, who was fatally shot in Cleveland, Ohio. Stephens targeted Goodwin randomly, his murder taking place on Easter Sunday morning in Cleveland’s east side.
Robert Godwin Jr., the victim’s son, reported that Godwin Sr. had no connection to Stephens.
“It was really sad what happened because it was just a random man. The killer just walked up to him . . . No one deserves to die like that,” says freshman Kylie Denneler.
Stephens filmed and posted a self-incriminating video of the murder on Facebook, the world’s largest social media network. The video was taken down by Facebook security more than two hours after it was posted. The video spread quickly, receiving millions of views.
It took two hours for Facebook security to become aware of the situation, and about 20 minutes to disable the account and postings.
News of the killing was reported all over the media, drawing interest and fear from many local people. The manhunt drew the attention of the F.B.I., U.S. Marshals, and several police agencies. People around the country reported sightings as far as Philadelphia.
Stephens was spotted at a McDonalds in Erie, PA late Tuesday morning on April 18 by employees, who contacted the authorities.
Pennsylvania state troopers and Wesleyville police offers pursued Stephens in a white sedan westbound for about a mile before a state trooper caused him to lose control of the car by tapping the car from behind.
As his car stopped, police report Stephens pulling out a gun and shooting himself in the head. Police attempted to reason with Stephens as opposed to subduing him by force in an effort to avoid any casualties.
Junior Taylor Cannon says, “It’s a shame that Stephens died before he could get put away for killing that man. It’s comforting to know that he’s not out there anymore, but there is no justice for the victim.”
Many concerns about Facebook’s content have arisen, urging Facebook to censor its content more proactively. Chief executive of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg faces the dilemma between new media platforms to draw in users and filtering material posted on these platforms.
Stephens had no prior criminal record and there is no information regarding his motive or reasons for murder since his passing.
Stephens had not taken the typical precautions as other fugitives. Police tracked his personal cellphone to Erie on Sunday and searched the area with no success. He did not change vehicles and traveled only about 100 miles from Cleveland and the scene of the crime.
Stephens worked at a children’s behavioral health agency, Beech Brook, since 2008. Police confirmed that he had not sought out his workplace after the murder on Sunday.
Reported history searches indicate that Stephens struggled financially through gambling and failure to pay rent on time. It is also suspected that he was distraught over a recent break up with his previous girlfriend. In the video, Stephens tells Godwin Sr. to say her name before he fatally shoots him.
What makes a person commit murder? Is the death of a killer justice?