ON THE RUN
Facebook Killer on the Loose After Shooting Grandfather of 14 in Cleveland
Steve Stephens shot a 74-year-old man at random on Easter and recorded the murder. He’s on the run, his ex-girlfriend is in protective custody, and the victim’s family is in grief.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated throughout.
Police in Cleveland are searching for a man who shot a random victim in the head while recording it on video he uploaded to Facebook.
Steve Stephens posted the video at 3 p.m. Sunday, some time after he shot and killed Robert Godwin Sr. Stephens’s whereabouts are unknown, though police said his phone pinged a cell tower 100 miles east of Cleveland, in Erie, Pennsylvania. A $50,000 reward has been offered for information leading to his capture.
“Find me somebody I’m about to kill, I’m gonna kill this guy right here. The older dude,” Stephens said on video as he exited a white Ford Fusion in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood on Sunday afternoon. Stephens then approaches Godwin on the sidewalk, asking him to “do me a favor” by saying the name “Joy Lane.”
“Joy Lane—she’s the reason this is about to happen to you,” Stephens told Godwin before raising a pistol and shooting him in the head on video.
Godwin, 74, was walking home from an Easter meal with his family when he was killed, they told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. “He hugged my wife and me and said ‘I’ll see you guys next time,’” Robert Godwin Jr. recounted. “I said ‘OK, enjoy your Easter.’”
Godwin was a retired foundary worker who leaves behind nine children and 14 grandchildren.
A family member of Godwin’s told a local CBS affiliate: “I feel like my heart’s gonna stop.”
Video of the slaying, which occured in the city’s Glenville neighborhood on East 93rd Street, south of Interstate 90, remained live on Facebook for nearly three hours before being taken down. In a subsequent video, broadcast via Facebook Live, Stephens claimed to have already killed 13 people, and to be “working on the 14th as I speak.”
“All because of this bitch named Joy Lane,” Stephens told his camera. “You know, she pushed me to my pushing point, man. I was living over there with her, woke up Friday and just couldn’t take it anymore and I just left.”
Lane confirmed she was dating Stephens in a text message to CBS News.
“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 police say Lane is cooperating and is under protective custody.
Stephens said on video he would not stop killing until his girlfriend or mother told him to stop. Stephens’ mother, Maggie Green, told him to stop on CNN.
“He said this is the last time I was going to see him,” Green said of his visit to her house on Saturday afternoon. “If you see me again, it’ll be a miracle,” she quoted him as saying.
Green said she spoke to Stephens briefly on the phone after the shooting, but her phone died.
“I want him to call me,” she said.
Speaking at a press conference Monday, Police Chief Calvin Williams urged Stephens to turn himself in.
“Steve if you’re there listening, call someone — whether it’s a friend or family member or pastor — they’re waiting for you to call them,” he said.
A Facebook spokesperson condemned the shooting, calling it “horrific.”
“This is a horrific crime and we do not allow this kind of content on Facebook,” the spokesperson told a local reporter. “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.”
While Stephens had no criminal record beyond traffic violations, he was evicted from an apartment in January for failure to pay rent. The Plain-Dealer reports court records show he was evicted from an apartment five months earlier and his wages were garnished to pay backdue rent. Stephens declared personal bankruptcy in 2015.