Steve Stephens, 37, was charged with the alleged murder of 74-year-old Robert Godwin, and his face has been all over the news prior to Tuesday because Cleveland police said that after he shot Godwin on Sunday, Stephens posted video of the killing on Facebook — and it unfortunately spread on social media like wildfire. After several days of law enforcement around the country being on high alert for Stephens — as it was believed he might have left the Cleveland area following the murder — what happened to Steve Stephens? He was found dead on Tuesday in Pennsylvania.
According to CNN, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said Stephens apparently chose the victim, Godwin, at random. Williams also said investigators searched several locations for Stephens "to no avail," and that one of his detectives spoke to Stephens via cellphone after the killing. He said the detective attempted to convince the suspect to surrender, but did not speak of the call any further.
On Tuesday, nearly 48 hours after Godwin was shot and killed, Cleveland police and federal collaborators initially had no new information about Stephens' possible whereabouts, according to Cleveland.com. But by midday, Stephens was found shot dead in a vehicle in an apparent suicide, according to the BBC.
Stephens was found in Erie County, Pennsylvania, according to information provided by Pennsylvania State Police on Twitter. He was spotted Tuesday morning by Pennsylvania State Police in Erie County, and, the official Twitter account reported, "After a brief pursuit, Stephens shot and killed himself."
Buzzfeed reported that the FBI and US Marshals conducted a nationwide search for Stephens, with over 400 tips to law enforcement saying Stephens was seen from Pennsylvania to Texas. In the few days following the murder, reports of Stephens being seen in several locations spread on social media, causing confusion for those trying to keep up-do-date on his possible location.
CNN previously reported that the search for Stephens led to a series of dead ends, which made authorities plead for the public's help to find the murder suspect. Many of the reported sightings turned out to be false, leading to further frustration for the authorities attempting to find the alleged killer.
The search for Stephens had spread to involve billboards across the country, and border authorities were on alert for the man, according to Cleveland.com. Pete Elliot, a U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Ohio, previously stated, "Either he's dead somewhere or someone's holing him up somewhere else," according to that outlet. As it turned out, Stephens did in fact kill himself, less than two hours away from the city in which he allegedly murdered an innocent pedestrian.
In a video posted in a tweet by ABC News, it was reported by Cleveland police chief Williams that after a short pursuit by Pennsylvania police officers, Stephens "took his own life" when the officers approached the vehicle he was in. Stephens was found after a tip from a source turned out to be true.
The search for Stephens was likely complicated by misinformation that spread on social media in regards to his whereabouts. WKYC, a local affiliate out of Cleveland, reported that Cleveland police posted a warning on Twitter late Sunday, stating that "misinformation in emergencies in dangerous."
GoErie.com reported that Stephens died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was found driving a white Ford Fusion near Buffalo Road and Downing Avenue in Erie, Pennsylvania, around 11:10 a.m., police said. So reports about him being anywhere from Philadelphia to other, further parts of the state, or other areas in Ohio, or as far as locations in New York state and elsewhere, were very likely untrue.
The Associated Press reported that officers searched many locations around Cleveland without finding Stephens or other possible victims before they expanded the manhunt. But ultimately, Stephens was found in Pennsylvania, and died before he could be approached and questioned by officers in pursuit.