See below for an update to this story.
In an emotional interview with CNN’s Don Lemon on Monday night, the family of Robert Godwin Sr., who was brutally murdered on Easter Sunday in Cleveland, forgave their father’s killer. Godwin’s alleged assailant, Steve Stephens, broadcast the crime on Facebook and is still at large, the subject of a multi-state manhunt.
Godwin’s former wife, along with three of his adult children, held one another and expressed their love for their father and gratitude for his life and said they are relying on their faith to get them through this difficult time. And remarkably, they said that despite their anger about his untimely death, they forgive Stephens for killing their father.
Tammy Godwin told Lemon, “I just want people to know that [my father] was a good man. And he was a good father and he was a family man. And he was a good grandfather. He would do anything for anybody.”
But she begged Stephens to turn himself in. “Give us closure, just turn yourself in,” she pleaded. “We don’t hate you. You took something from us and we still don’t hate you.”
Asked to give a final word, Godwin’s former wife, Dorothy Crumpton, packed quite a punch in her final few seconds. The distraught woman, who called Godwin her best friend, quoted John 3:16. “OK, since I got the last words,” she said, “‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.'” Crumpton added that the family didn’t want Stephens to kill himself or for police to kill him because “at the end of the day Jesus died for his sins, too, just like he died for mine.”
In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, daughter Tonja Godwin Baines said that their father “taught us about God—how to fear God, how to love God, and how to forgive. Each one of us forgives the killer, the murderer.” The three family members also begged Stephens to turn himself in and said that even though they forgive him, he needs to face the penalty for his crime.
“My dad would be really proud of us and he would want this from us. He would say ‘Tonya, forgive him, for they know not what they do,” she added.
Debbie Godwin, another one of Godwin’s nine children, told Cooper, “I honestly can say right now that I hold no animosity in my heart against this man.”
“I could not do that if I did not know God. If I didn’t know him as my God and my Savior I could not forgive that man. And I feel no animosity against him at all. I actually feel sadness in my heart for him. I do,” she explained.
It was a remarkable display of faith by this precious family in the face of horrifying circumstances. I pray that God will wrap his loving arms around them and give them an abundance of “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding” and that they’ll take comfort in Jesus’s promise: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful” John 14:27.
Watch the emotional videos below:
Family members of Facebook murder victim offer forgiveness: "You took something from us, we still don't hate you" https://t.co/YJr62ArOly
— CNN Tonight (@CNNTonight) April 18, 2017
The daughter of the Facebook murder victim has a message for the killer: I want him to know that "he's loved by God" https://t.co/1lbr6fXvsX
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) April 18, 2017
Update Tuesday 1:12 p.m. EST: Pennsylvania State Police have confirmed the death of Steve Stephens, who was discovered earlier today in Erie, Pennsylvania. From News 5 Cleveland:
Stephens was found about 100 miles outside of Cleveland. Authorities received a tip that Stephens white 2016 Ford Fusion was parked at a McDonalds in Erie.
Pennsylvania State Police say Stephens “was spotted just after 11 a.m. this morning by an alert citizen near the intersection of Buffalo Road and Downing Avenue in Erie County, Pennsylvania, which is less than two miles from PSP Troop E headquarters.”
Shortly after 11 a.m., there was a short police pursuit and when officers approached the vehicle, Stephens took his own life.