Rumors have been swirling about details regarding the man accused of uploading a murder onto Facebook on Easter Sunday, leading local law enforcement to urge the public to be careful about spreading false information.
Police are searching for 37-year-old Steve Stephens, who was initially believed to have live streamed the shooting and killing of 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr. in Cleveland Sunday, April 16. Police told WYKC that Godwin is the only confirmed victim, despite Stephens’ claim that he killed more people.
He is wanted for aggravated murder and was last seen driving a white 2016 Ford Fusion with a temporary tag E363630.
Cleveland police warned the public about the dangers of misinformation on its Twitter page.
Please stay tuned to @CLEpolice feeds for accurate and updated info. Misinformation in emergencies is dangerous. All press releases posted.
— Cleveland Police (@CLEpolice) April 17, 2017
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to WKYC that reports of the murder being streamed on Facebook Live were untrue, though Stephens had shared a Facebook Live video at some point during the day. Stephens uploaded a video of Godwin’s murder onto his Facebook page Sunday afternoon, which remained online for three hours before it and Stephens’ Facebook page were removed, according to the Associated Press.
Reports of GoFundMe accounts for Godwin’s family have also been verified as scams by Cleveland police at a Monday, April 17 press conference according to WKYC. The public should not donate to any fundraisers on the website until further notice.
— FERB (@Tgiferb) April 17, 2017
The local news station has been streaming the latest information about the case on its Facebook page and is fact checking the comments users have submitted.
One comment stated Stephens was spotted in Painesville, Ohio, but the Painesville Police Department and the Lake County Sheriff’s office said he had not been in Lake County.
Another major rumor was that Stephens’ phone pinged in Erie, Pa., which was deemed false by the Erie City Police Department and Pennsylvania State Police, which added hundreds of calls have come in and been tracked down, but Stephens hasn’t been seen in the Erie area.
Stephens’ whereabouts are currently unknown, but authorities have told neighboring states Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia to keep a lookout for him.
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams told WKSU Monday detectives got in touch with Stephens “early in the investigation” and the department has been in touch with his relatives.
“We’re in touch with a lot of Steve’s family members and friends, and they’re all trying to do the same thing: trying to get him to turn himself in,” Williams said.
“We had been in a relationship for several years,” Stephens’ former long-time girlfriend Joy Lane told CBS News. “I am sorry that all of this has happened. My heart and prayers [go] 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.”
Stephens is employed by Pepper Pike, Ohio behavioral health agency Beech Brook.
“We were shocked and horrified to learn of this news today,” company spokesperson Nancy Kortemeyer told Fox 8. “We were notified that it was on Facebook, and we are waiting along with everyone else to hear if he has been apprehended. Our hearts go out to the family of Mr. Godwin, and we are hoping that the Cleveland Police will be able to apprehend Mr. Stephens as soon as possible and before anyone else is injured.”