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Suspect sought in Facebook video killing fatally shoots himself, police say

Steve Stephens.

CLEVELAND POLICE/AFP/Getty Images

Steve Stephens.

CLEVELAND (AP) — The man who randomly killed a Cleveland retiree and posted video of the crime on Facebook shot himself to death Tuesday after police chased him down in his car in Pennsylvania, ending a multistate manhunt less than 48 hours after it began.

Acting on a tip, Pennsylvania State Police spotted Steve Stephens, 37, in Erie County, in the state’s northwest corner, authorities said. After a brief pursuit, he pulled over, and as officers approached the car, he took his own life, authorities said.

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‘‘We would have preferred it not ended this way,’’ Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said.

The break in the case came when police received a tip that Stephens’ car was in a McDonald’s parking lot, Willlams said. Law enforcement officials had said on Monday that his cellphone was last tracked Sunday afternoon near Erie, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) east of Cleveland.

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Stephens, a job counselor who worked with teenagers and young people, was wanted on an aggravated murder charge in the shooting of Robert Godwin Sr., a 74-year-old man who was picking up aluminum cans on Sunday when he was gunned down.

Stephens posted a video of himself killing Godwin. ‘‘I snapped, I just snapped,’’ he said.

Police would not speculate on what was behind the killing, but in the video and other footage he posted, he talked about losing everything he had to gambling and having trouble with his girlfriend.

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The video of the killing was up for three hours before it was taken down, raising questions about Facebook’s handling of objectionable material posted by its users. Facebook said it removed the video 23 minutes after learning of it.

In the video of the shooting, Stephens told Godwin the name of his girlfriend and said, ‘‘She’s the reason that this is about to happen to you.’’ Godwin did not seem to recognize the name.

The woman Stephens spoke of, Joy Lane, said in a text message to CBS that ‘‘we had been in a relationship for several years. I am sorry that all of this has happened.’’

Investigators said that Godwin was the only victim so far linked to Stephens, despite his claim on Facebook that he killed over a dozen people.

Detectives spoke with the suspect on Sunday by cellphone and tried to persuade him to surrender, police said.

Within a day, authorities expanded the search nationwide and offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to his capture.

Associated Press reporters Michael Rubinkam in Pennsylvania, Dake Kang and Delano Massey in Cleveland, John Seewer in Toledo and Dan Sewell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.
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