Steve Stephens, the Cleveland killer 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 gave chase. One trooper performed a “PIT” maneuver, a strategic way of ramming a car 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 said. “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.
‘I think that’s the guy’
The McDonald’s where Stephens was first spotted is about 5 miles from where he took his life. Thomas DuCharme Jr., the franchise owner, said Stephens ordered chicken nuggets and fries at the McDonald’s drive-thru window in Harborcreek Township, and employees recognized him and called the police.
The employee said ” ‘I think that’s the guy. Can you double check I’m right?’ ” DuCharme said. “When I saw him I knew it was him. It fits the profile. He didn’t look that different than the picture but his beard was trimmed down.”
Stephens was two cars behind in the drive-thru lane to pick up food, and by this time, the police were on their way, DuCharme said.
Stephens took his nuggets, but employees told him he had to wait for the fries. They were trying to give police time to arrive, DuCharme said. But Stephens didn’t wait and he drove away, the owner said.
DuCharme said Stephens looked suspicious. “I’ve been doing this for 34 years. [Stephens] didn’t want his money, he wanted the nuggets and to leave,” he said.
The last thing he said ‘is my name’
On Tuesday, two of Godwin’s daughters, Debbie Godwin and Tonya Godwin-Baines, met with Joy Lane, the woman who identified herself as Stephens’ former girlfriend, CNN affiliate WJW reported. The women, who didn’t know each other, hugged, prayed and cried.
“The hashtags Joy Lane, Joy Lane massacre — I don’t even know who Joy Lane is anymore, or how to pick up all the pieces of my world at this moment,” Lane said, the station reported. “I’ve got a lot of negative comments. Some even said he should have killed me.”
WJW said Lane told Godwin’s daughters: “I feel bad. The last thing he would have said is my name and he didn’t know me or why he was saying [it].”
She and Stephens had dated for a while, Lane said. They last talked on Saturday night. Stephens told Lane he had quit his job and was moving out of state, she said.
Lane told WJW she tried to reach Stephens after the video surfaced on Facebook but he didn’t answer his phone.
Earlier in the week, Lane told multiple news agencies 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.
Cleveland police said earlier this week that they had spoken to Lane, and she was safe and cooperating with the investigation. Lane’s neighbors told CNN that Stephens often stayed at her Twinsburg home with her three young girls. One resident said Stephens was there recently, fixing the home’s garage.
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 again 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,” his mother said, referring to Lane.
Later Sunday, Stephens uploaded a video to his Facebook page showing a gun pointed at a man’s head.
Family: Shooting victim ‘stripped of his dignity’
Stephens asked the victim to say Lane’s name.
“She’s the reason why this is about to happen to you,” Stephens said.
The gunman then fires the weapon. Godwin recoils and falls to the ground.
Stephens claimed on Facebook that he had killed more people, but police don’t know of any other victims. Stephens had many traffic violations but no criminal record, police said.