Nationwide Manhunt For Suspect In Facebook Killing Video Reaches Southern California

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The nationwide manhunt for a suspected killer, who posted the gruesome video of a murder on Facebook, has reached Southern California.

A billboard that reads “Wanted: Steve Stephens Murder Suspect 1-800-CALL-FBI” was put up along the northbound I-5 near Telegraph Road in Whittier on Monday.

In Cleveland, a vigil was held Monday night to remember Robert Godwin Sr. His daughter, Debbie Godwin, said her father was a gentle person and “wasn’t harming anyone.”

Police said Stephens killed the 74-year-old victim Sunday afternoon in what appeared to be a random shooting while the retiree was picking up aluminum cans. Stephens then uploaded the gruesome video of the killing to Facebook.

Authorities are searching multiple states for Stephens, who is considered armed and dangerous and could be anywhere.

A $50,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the capture and prosecution of him.

In the video, Stephens named a woman and told the victim that “she’s the reason that this is about to happen to you.”

Other videos he shared on the social media site showed him talking about his despair over gambling debts and trouble with his girlfriend.

On Monday evening, Facebook announced that it was launching a review for reporting harmful content.

“We disabled the suspect’s account within 23 minutes of receiving the first report about the murder video, and two hours after receiving a report of any kind. But we know we need to do better,” according to a Facebook statement, which also said the company was reviewing its current system and exploring new technology.

UCLA assistant professor of information studies, Sarah Roberts, said Facebook leaves it up to users to flag horrific videos, which can take hours to be removed.

“A lot of what gets movement at companies like Facebook and other firms like it is public reaction, and this is a reaction of disgust,” Roberts said. “We don’t actually know the social consequences of what this will mean down the road.”

Cleveland police Chief Calvin Williams said authorities have searched every location Stephens has been associated with in the Cleveland area.

Police in Philadelphia said they have “no indication” that the man was in Philadelphia. Authorities said multiple 911 calls came in shortly after 12:30 p.m. Monday reporting that Stephens could be in or near Fairmount Park, a large green expanse northwest of downtown.

While officers were sent to check the area, eight elementary schools and a high school were locked down as a precaution.

Philadelphia is more than a six-hour drive from Cleveland.

The suspect’s former girlfriend told CBS News Monday in a text that the 37-year-old was “a nice guy” who was generous to everyone and was “kind and loving” to her and her children.

Joy Lane said she had a relationship for several years with Stephens. Williams said Lane is cooperating with authorities and is being protected.

The behavior health facility where Stephens worked closed Monday out of concern for the safety of employees, clients and visitors

A spokeswoman said he underwent an extensive FBI background check before being hired in 2008.

Nancy Kortemeyer said there was nothing in the background check for Stephens that caused any concerns.

Kortemeyer said Stephens’ job since 2015 as a vocational specialist involved preparing youth and young adults ages 16-25 for employment.

Stephens had referred to himself as a case manager. Kortemeyer said he did have a caseload of clients that he managed.

According to authorities, Stephens did not have a criminal record.

Godwin had 10 children and 14 grandchildren. His daughter said he spent the day before he was killed doing one of the things he loved most, fishing in Lake Erie.

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg was expected to address the issue on Tuesday at F8, which is Facebook’s annual Developers Conference.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE logo TM and copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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