A former state trooper catfished a teenage girl before traveling across the country with a deadly mission in mind. When he arrived in California, he killed her mother and grandparents, burned down their house, and then kidnapped her.
Virginia cop uses “catfishing” to lure California teen
Catfishing is a slang term that refers to creating a fictional online persona in order to lure or trick someone.
The above is exactly the technique 28-year-old Austin Lee Edwards of North Chesterfield, Virginia, used to lure a Riverside, California, teenager. Edwards had formerly worked for the Virginia state police and was recently employed at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia, Fox 11 LA reported.
After developing a relationship with a girl online, Edwards obtained her personal info and traveled from Virginia to California to see her. What happened next was a nightmare come to life.
Murder, Arson, and Kidnapping
Upon arriving in Riverside, Edwards allegedly parked his car in a neighbor’s driveway and walked to the girl’s home.
On Friday, Nov. 25, shortly after 11 AM, police in Riverside, California, received a call of a disturbance between a man and a teen girl at a home in the 11200 block of Price Court and responded to do a welfare check, Yahoo reported. Neighbors spotted a young woman in distress being ushered into a red Kia Soul by a man, the Riverside Police Department said in a statement.
Firefighters called to house fire, find three dead bodies
Shortly after the distress call, the Riverside fire department received a call of a house fire, which authorities would later learn was the home of the teen girl.
When firefighters entered the home, they found three individuals who were dead and pulled their bodies from the building. Investigators would determine that the three victims had not died from the fire but had been killed by Edwards. The three were identified as the teen girl’s mother, 38-year-old Brooke Winek, and her grandparents, 69-year-old Mark Winek and 65-year-old Sharie Winek.
Sheriff’s confront kidnapper 200 miles away in deadly shootout
Several hours later, deputies from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department located Edwards driving with the teen in an unincorporated area of Kelso, nearly 200 miles northeast of where he kidnapped the girl.
When authorities confronted Edwards, he fired a gun. In the volley of gunfire that followed, Edwards was shot and pronounced dead at the scene. The teen girl, whose name and age have been withheld by authorities, was in the car but was unharmed. She was taken into protective custody.
Virginia police and sheriff’s office issue statements
The Virginia Police Department released a statement saying Edwards was hired and entered the academy on July 6, 2021. He graduated on January 21, 2022, as a trooper and resigned on Oct. 28, 2022. He was hired by the Washington County Sheriff’s Department less than two weeks ago.
The Washington County Sheriff’s office in Virginia also issued a statement after Edwards’ death.
“It is shocking and sad to the entire law enforcement community that such an evil and wicked person could infiltrate law enforcement while concealing his true identity as a computer predator and murderer,” Washington County Sheriff Blake Andis said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Winek family, their friends, officers, and all of those affected by this heinous crime.”