Easter is usually a time of celebration and gathering with family and friends. Sadly, for one unsuspecting man named Robert Godwin, who had the misfortune of crossing paths with Steve Stephens. Stephens was known as the “Facebook killer,” after having posted a video of himself murdering Godwin. The disturbing video of Godwin’s final moments circulated quickly and sparked outrage and fear across social media. The focus quickly transformed into extreme vigilance amongst citizens of Cleveland and the surrounding area as Stephens fled.
As more information trickled in about the suspect, Facebook pulled the video of the murder from its platform, but two other videos remained. In them, Stephens explained why he had “snapped” and blamed former girlfriend, Joy Lane, for his actions. He stated that he had lost everything and had developed a gambling problem. He also stated that he had killed approximately a dozen others, but authorities have yet to find any evidence to substantiate that claim. Stephens seemed adamant in his blame of Joy Lane, even going so far as to make Godwin say it before pulling the trigger. “She’s the reason why this is about to happen to you,” Stephens declared.
As time passed since Easter Sunday afternoon, the search radius had grown, spilling into neighboring states. There were reports that the cellphone belonging to Stephens had pinged a tower to the east of Erie. No other findings had been reported by the media at the time and some information was not completely verified. Some sources had even purported that Stephens had changed cars. On Monday, reports began to flood in from potential witnesses claiming to have seen Stephens, even as far as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia Police followed up on leads that the suspect was spotted in Fairmount Park, prompting a lockdown of nine schools in the vicinity of the reported sighting. It was later determined that the sighting was false and the lockdown was lifted.
One lead that had more plausibility was that Stephens was somewhere in or around Erie, Pennsylvania. It was the last known whereabouts according to the information taken from the cellphone tower, but no information had been obtained since the signal was picked up at around 4:30 p.m. on Easter Sunday. Monday ended with no new developments, and increasing anxiety amongst residents across several states.
It wasn’t until Tuesday morning at around 11 a.m. that Stephens finally surfaced. A very alert employee of a McDonald’s in Harborcreek, Pennsylvania notified her supervisor, “I think that’s the Facebook killer in our drive-thru.” The quick reaction marked the beginning of the end of the manhunt for Steve Stephens. The order came that came through was for Chicken McNuggets with a side of fries. The car outside of the payment window was the white Ford Fusion with Ohio plates that matched the number widely circulated in the news. The driver operating the vehicle also matched the description of Steve Stephens, the only difference being that his beard was cropped more closely than in the photos plastered on billboards by the FBI.
It was him.
The employee called the authorities as franchise owner Thomas DuCharme took the place of another employee in the second window. Two cars were ahead of Stephens in the drive-thru line. When it was his turn, Stephens collected the Chicken McNuggets. DuCharme attempted to buy some time to allow the police, already en route, to get closer to the restaurant. The owner told Stephens that his fries would be up shortly, but Stephens, became hurried and said. “I don’t have time to wait. I have to go.” He then drove off.
Almost immediately, Pennsylvania State Troopers were close behind Stephens and in pursuit of the killer. During the chase, the police performed a “PIT” maneuver, using the cruiser to strategically immobilize a vehicle. As the car began to spin out of control, Stephens pulled a gun and shot himself in the head. Stephens died of the self-inflicted gunshot and his reign of terror ended.
Steve Stephens was spotted this morning by PSP members in Erie County. After a brief pursuit, Stephens shot and killed himself.— PA State Police (@PAStatePolice) April 18, 2017
DuCharme expressed his admiration for his employee’s prompt reaction and thoughtfulness in dealing with the stressful situation and said that she should receive the $50,000 reward for the information that led police to Stephens. Whether or not that will happen is purely up to authorities. One thing that is for sure is that, with Steve Stephens gone, he cannot harm anyone else like he did Robert Godwin. Our thoughts are with his family as they attempt to move on from this horrific experience.