Cleveland Family to Father's Facebook Killer: 'We Forgive You'

UPDATE: 12 p.m. ET Suspect Steve Stephens shot and killed himself Tuesday in Erie County, Pennsylvania, as state police attempted a traffic stop "after a brief pursuit." Pennsylvania State Police will hold a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

(Photo: The Christian Post, Screengrab of video on CNN.com)The family of Robert Godwin Sr. who was murdered on Sunday, April 17, 2017 speak to CNN's Anderson Cooper.

The children of a 74-year-old man whose brutal murder was streamed on Facebook Easter Sunday are publicly forgiving the killer, citing their father's devotion to God.

In an interview on CNN on Monday, a son and two daughters of Robert Godwin Sr. said they held no bitterness in their hearts toward Steve Stephens, 37, the murder suspect who shot and killed their father in Cleveland on Sunday and then posted a video of the killing on Facebook. Authorities are appealing to the public for tips as they conduct a nationwide search for Stephens who remains at large.

"Each one of us forgive the killer," said Tonya Godwin-Baines told Anderson Cooper in the interview, "we want to wrap our arms around him."

Likewise, Debbie Godwin said she "could not [forgive] if I did not know God. If I didn't know Him as my God and my Savior, I could not forgive that man."

"It's just the way my heart is, it's the right thing to do," she said. "And so, I just would want him to know that even in his worst state, he's loved, you know, by God, that God loves him, even in the bad stuff that he did to my dad. That he's still loved. And that he has some worth while, even though he's gonna have to go through many things to get better, there's worth in him."

"And as long as there's life in him, there is hope for him too," Godwin said.

The importance of forgiveness was a value that their father instilled in them and lived out, they explained.

"My dad would be really proud of us, he would want this from us," Godwin-Baines said.

"He would say, Tonya, forgive them, because they know not what they do," she said, making a reference to Christ's Words on the cross before He died.

Godwin's children are appealing to the man to surrender and offered further expressions of forgiveness.

Robert Godwin Jr., one of Godwin's sons, said in an interview on Cleveland television station WJW: "Steve, I forgive you. ... I'm not happy [with] what you did but I forgive you."

Mayor of Cleveland Frank Jackson has announced that a reward of up to $50,000 will be given to those with information that leads to Stephens' arrest. Stephens also said he killed at least a dozen others, though police say no evidence of that exists.

Several hours passed before Facebook removed the video and suspended Stephens' account.

"This is a horrific crime and we do not allow this kind of content on Facebook," said a Facebook spokesman in a statement, according to The Washington Post on Monday. "We work hard to keep a safe environment on Facebook, and are in touch with law enforcement in emergencies when there are direct threats to physical safety."

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