FBI clarifies timeline as it pieces together whereabouts of Cleveland Facebook killer during manhunt


CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cleveland FBI on Thursday confirmed that investigators were only able to discern suspected Facebook killer Steve Stephens’ whereabouts through his cellphone one time during a nearly 48-hour manhunt following his killing a 74-year-old in the city’s Glenville neighborhood.

The news release says the last time either of Stephens’ two cellphones registered was when activity went through a tower in Erie, Pennsylvania on Sunday, several hours after he killed Robert Godwin Sr. After that, the cellphones were inactive, the FBI says.

The information was released to clarify some of what investigators know about Stephens’ whereabouts between Sunday, when he killed Godwin, and Tuesday, when he was spotted in Erie and took his own life.

FBI spokeswoman Vicki Anderson said agents are not sure whether Stephens left Erie after Sunday night or whether he went to another city or state and returned there.

The fact that Stephens’ cellphones were off was an impediment for authorities as they tried to find him and remains a problem as they try to piece together a timeline of his whereabouts after he killed Godwin.

Cleveland police Chief Calvin Williams said detectives spoke to Stephens once on Sunday but were unable to contact him again. Sources told cleveland.com on Sunday night that it appeared at least one of Stephens’ phones was off.

A search of Stephens’ car by Pennsylvania State Police after Stephens’ suicide did not turn up any cellphones, according to a search warrant.

Stephens, 37, shot Godwin in the face and posted a video of the gruesome act on Facebook, authorities said. Pennsylvania State Police found him on Tuesday morning, when an employee at a McDonald’s just outside Erie recognized Stephens as he went through the drive-thru.

After a brief chase, Stephens shot himself in the head, police said.

On Sunday, shortly after Godwin died and determined Stephens was the suspect, agents from the Cleveland’s FBI’s Violent Crime Task Force requested and quickly received data about Stephens’ cellphone activity from his service providers, according to the news release.

After activity registered at the cellphone tower in Erie, the data showed both phones were inactive and remained that way, according to the release.

“FBI agents located in Erie, Pa., along with local law enforcement partners canvassed the area in which the last activity occurred but did not locate Stephens,” the release says.

As agents and law enforcement across the country searched from Stephens, more than 500 tips poured in from across the country, but none led to his capture. One tipster said Stephens and a woman were spotted in Erie, prior to his being found Tuesday in a McDonald’s drive-thru, but investigators determined that the man spotted was not the suspect, according to the release.

The Cleveland FBI also sent out the release Thursday after cleveland.com asked federal magistrate Judge Jonathan Greenberg to unseal any warrants affiliated with the case involving Godwin and Stephens.

The news organization argued that Stephens’ death negated the need for the information contained in any affidavits to remain shielded from public view, as any threat Stephen’s may have posed to the public no longer exists.

Greenberg’s courtroom deputy sent an email to a cleveland.com reporter Thursday morning that said “after due consideration, the Court declines to fulfill your request at this time.”

The FBI’s release says, “this investigation continues in an attempt to determine Stephens’ whereabouts from the afternoon of Sunday, April 16, 2017 until the morning of Tuesday, April 18, 2017. Therefore, some affidavits pertaining to this investigation cannot be unsealed.”

The agency says it will release additional information “when appropriate.”

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