Wed. Feb 1st, 2023


A former Virginia police officer, believed to have murdered a youngster’s household in Riverside, California after “catfishing” her on-line, was killed in a shootout whereas attempting to flee authorities, town’s police division mentioned in a information launch.

Officers with the Riverside Police had been dispatched Friday to examine the welfare of a younger feminine who appeared distressed whereas getting right into a purple automotive with a person, police mentioned. Whereas officers had been responding, 911 dispatchers started getting calls a few hearth in the identical neighborhood, just some homes away from the place the welfare examine originated.

Firefighters found three grownup victims mendacity within the entrance entryway of the burning dwelling. After they pulled them exterior, it was decided they had been victims of an obvious murder, the discharge said.

A preliminary investigation decided the younger feminine described within the preliminary name was a youngster who lived the place the home hearth and homicides occurred, police mentioned.

The person she accompanied was finally recognized as Austin Lee Edwards, 28, of North Chesterfield, Virginia, in keeping with the discharge.

Detectives mentioned they consider Edwards had met the teenager by means of the frequent type of on-line deception often known as “catfishing,” the place somebody pretends to be a unique particular person than they really are.

In keeping with police, Edwards had developed a web-based relationship with the teenager and obtained her private info. He then traveled from Virginia to Riverside, the place he parked his automobile in a neighbor’s driveway and walked to the teenager’s dwelling, the discharge said. In some unspecified time in the future, authorities consider Edwards murdered the teenager’s grandfather, grandmother and mom earlier than strolling again to his automobile with the teenager and leaving.

A number of hours after the our bodies had been discovered, Edwards was noticed driving with the teenager by means of San Bernardino County, police mentioned.

In keeping with the discharge, Edwards exchanged gunfire with the San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies making an attempt to cease him, was shot by deputies, and was later pronounced useless on the scene.

The teenager was unhurt and later positioned into protecting custody of the Riverside County Division of Public Social Companies, police mentioned.

Edwards resigned from the Virginia State Police in October, in keeping with the company. Detectives in California realized he was “lately employed on the Washington County Sheriff’s Workplace within the state of Virginia.”

“It’s stunning and unhappy to the complete legislation enforcement neighborhood that such an evil and depraved particular person may infiltrate legislation enforcement whereas concealing his true id as a pc predator and assassin. Our ideas and prayers are with the Winek household, their associates, officers, and all of these affected by this heinous crime,” mentioned Washington County Sheriff Blake Andis.

The victims have been recognized as Mark Winek, 69, his spouse Sharie Winek, 65, and their daughter Brooke Winek, 38. The precise trigger and method of their deaths are nonetheless pending.

The reason for the home hearth continues to be beneath investigation, though it seems to have been deliberately ignited, the discharge said. 

“Our hearts exit to the Winek household and their family members throughout this time of large grief, as it is a tragedy for all Riversiders,” metropolis Police Chief Larry Gonzalez mentioned within the launch.

“That is yet one more horrific reminder of the predators present on-line who prey on our kids. Should you’ve already had a dialog together with your children on the best way to be secure on-line and on social media, have it once more. If not, begin it now to higher defend them.”

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