Virginia Cop 'Catfished' Teen Girl Before Murdering Her Family, Authorities Say
Virginia Deputy "catfished" a California girl, then murdered her grandparents and mother, authorities said.
A former Virginia State Police officer died in a shootout with police after he "catfished" a California teen, drove across the country and killed her mother and grandparents, authorities said.
Austin Lee Edwards, 28, was shot and killed by deputies with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office Friday, according to the department. Edwards had crashed his vehicle after being chased by deputies on the lookout for him, authorities said.
Edwards opened fire after leaving the car, and was killed by deputies, the department said. Edwards had been a Virginia state trooper and was most recently employed by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia, authorities said.
In the car was an unidentified teenage girl, who was not injured, deputies said.
Edwards is believed to have driven from Virginia to California after starting an online relationship with the teen girl under false pretenses, authorities said.
“Detectives determined Edwards had met the female teenager through the common form of online deception known as ‘catfishing,’ where someone pretends to be a different person than they actually are,” the Riverside Police Department said in a statement.
"It is believed Edwards had developed an online relationship with the teen and obtained her personal information. He traveled from Virginia to Riverside where he parked his car in a neighbor’s driveway and walked into the teen’s home," the statement said.
Police were summoned to perform a welfare check at the Riverside house, where someone observed a man and a woman who seemed to be in distress, officers said. The woman was later identified as the teenage girl.
While police were en route, firefighters responded to reports of a nearby house fire. Inside, the bodies of three people were found in the entry way. “Their bodies were pulled outside where it was determined they were victims of an apparent homicide,” police said.
Riverside officers released an urgent call to neighboring law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for Edwards and a teenage girl apparently taken from the house.
His car was later spotted in neighboring San Bernardino County and deputies gave chase.
The bodies were identified as the girl's mother and grandparents: 38-year-old Brooke Winek, 69-year-old Mark Winek, and his 65-year-old wife, Sharie Winek. Their causes of death were not released.
The girl was taken into protective custody by the Riverside County Department of Public and Social Services.
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