Austin Lee Edwards a former Virginia State Trooper has been named as the person who is suspected of killing a family in Riverside last week.
Authorities say that Edwards killed the grandmother, grandfather, and mother of a 15-year-old girl before setting their house on fire and taking the girl away. Edwards led the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department on a dangerous chase with the teen girl in the car hours after the alleged murders. He shot at a SWAT team before being killed by police.
Riverside Police Officer Ryan Railsback said, “At this point, we think the suspect was the only one who killed the people and started the fire.”
A spokesperson for the Virginia State Police said that Edwards was hired and started at the academy on July 6 of last year. When he graduated on January 21, 2022, he was sent to Henrico County in Virginia’s Richmond Division. He quit the department on October 28, 2022, less than a month before the horrible murder.
Since it was part of Edwards’s personnel file, the Virginia State Police wouldn’t say why he quit.
Then, on November 16, 2022, he started working for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. He just started training with the police department before he was sent to the patrol division.
During his background check of his previous employers, including the state police, “no employers disclosed any problems, reprimands, or internal investigations involving Edwards,” according to the Washington County deputies. When he applied to be a deputy, the sheriff’s office said that he was still working as a trooper for Virginia State Police.
The Riverside Police Department thinks that Edwards met the 15-year-old girl online by pretending to be someone else. This is called “catfishing.”
“He got to know her well enough that we think they might have texted each other or called each other. And he was able to find out who she was. He was able to find out where she lived “said Railsback.
Police think that Edwards then went from Virginia to Riverside and killed the teen’s grandfather, Mark Winek, who was 69, grandmother, Sharie Winek, who was 65, and mother, Brooke Winek, who was 38, before taking the girl with him.
Gonzalez said, “This is a horrible reminder that there are predators online who target our children.” “Even if you’ve already talked to your kids about how to stay safe online and on social media, you should do it again. If not, start it right away to protect them better.”
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