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US: Facebook Murder Suspect Found Dead

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Stephens, who live-broadcast killing of elderly man, commits suicide after police chase

A Cleveland, Ohio, man accused of murder and posting it live on Facebook, shot and killed himself Tuesday after a police chase, according to authorities.

“I want to officially announce that the search for Steve Stephens has ended,” Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams told reporters at a press conference.

Williams said Pennsylvania state police received a tip shortly after 11 a.m. (1500GMT) that the car Stephens was using had been found at a McDonald’s parking lot near Erie County.

Officers responded and engaged in a short pursuit, after which they stopped the vehicle. “As the officers approached that vehicle Steve Stephens took his own life,” Williams said.

“We are grateful that this has ended. We would prefer that it had not ended this way, because there are a lot of questions” about why Stephens did what he did, according to Williams.

Stephens was wanted in five states for the murder of Robert Godwin, 74, on Easter Sunday in Cleveland.

Stephens live-broadcast a video Sunday on Facebook in which he stops Godwin on the street and asked him to say the name Joy Lane -- later found to be Stephens’ estranged girlfriend.

After Godwin complies, Stephens responds: "She's the reason why this is about to happen to you,” before fatally shooting his victim through a white plastic bag Godwin held up in a bid to protect himself.

Police said it appeared Godwin was chosen at random.

Stephens’ mother, Maggie Green said her son told her a day before the shooting that it would be the last time she would see him, according to media reports.

Green, a former court clerk, was “dumbfounded” when she found out about the murder video a day later, and promptly called him. He told her he was “shooting people” because he was “mad with his girlfriend”.

Godwin’s family has forgiven Stephens and said they hold no animosity toward him.

"Each one of us forgives the killer, the murderer," daughter Tonya Godwin Baines told CNN on Monday.

Stephens kept posting on Facebook hours before his account was eventually shut down.

In several posts, he claimed to have killed as many as a dozen people, but police have not found evidence to support that claim.

He also blamed his actions on Lane, whom he called his girlfriend of three years.

A post shared online and in the media from Lane’s now-deleted Facebook page says she “can’t believe this is happening. I am very sad for everyone involved”.

Meanwhile, Facebook responded to criticism for its handling of the incident, as Stephens’ account was deactivated more than two hours after he murder video was uploaded.

"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,” Justin Osofsky, the company’s vice-president for global operations, said in a statement.

Before the start of Facebook's annual F8 developers conference, CEO Zuckerberg said: "We have a lot more to do here. And we are reminded of this this week by the tragedy in Cleveland.

"Our hearts go out to family and friends of Robert Godwin Sr. We have a lot of work and we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening."

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