A former Virginia state trooper is accused of ‘catfishing’ a teenage girl before traveling across the country, where he killed her mother and grandparents before driving off with her.
According to California police, the incident occurred shortly after 11 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 25. Riverside Police officers responded to a call to a home in the 11200 block of Price Court for reports of a disturbance between a man and a teen girl.
Officers said the teen “appeared distressed” when getting into a red Kia Soul with the man.
Soon after, authorities received another call about a home on fire nearby. Upon arrival, they found the girl’s mother and grandparents dead inside. However, they did not know it was the home of the girl in distress at the time.
Several hours later, San Bernardino police located the suspect and teen nearly 200 miles from Riverside. When they approached, the suspect allegedly fired a shot at deputies. He was shot and pronounced dead at the scene, according to a press release.
The teen was not physically harmed and was placed into protective custody.
Law enforcement officials identified the man as Austin Lee Edwards, 28, a former state trooper with the Virginia State Police. The victims were confirmed as 69-year-old Mark Winek; his wife, 65-year-old Sharie Winek (grandparents); and the girl’s mother, 38-year-old Brooke Winek.
It is unknown if he was a sworn officer at the time of the crime.
“Their bodies were pulled outside where it was determined they were victims of an apparent homicide,” the Riverside Police Department said, adding that firefighters were able to put the fire out. The cause of their deaths is being investigated.
Officials determined that Edwards met the teen online and misled her by acting as someone else. After they formed a bond, Edwards got her personal info and traveled from Virginia to California to see her. Authorities say he parked his car in a neighbor’s driveway, walked to the girl’s home, and murdered her mom and grandparents before leaving with her.