Man who catfished teen, killed 3 of her family members was Va. cop for less than 1 year

"It's shocking ... that such an evil and wicked person could infiltrate LE while concealing his true identity as a computer predator and murderer," police said


By Brian Rokos
The Orange County Register

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — The man who police say killed three members of a Riverside family on Friday, Nov. 25, had been a law-enforcement officer in Virginia for less than one year at the time of the attack and had managed to hide any dark secrets during his training, background checks and work, officials in that state said.

Austin Lee Edwards, 28, graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy on Jan. 21, 2022, and passed written, psychological, and physical testing, as well as a lie-detector test, before being hired by Virginia State Police, said Corinne N. Geller, a department spokeswoman. Edwards resigned on Oct. 28.

“During Edwards’ short tenure with the department, he never exhibited any behaviors to trigger any internal administrative or criminal investigations,” Geller said.

She added that state law requires certain personnel records to be disclosed to law enforcement, and no such records existed to provide to future employers.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office then hired Edwards on Nov. 16, and he was going through orientation before being assigned to the patrol division, the Sheriff’s Office said. No past employer disclosed any trouble, discipline or investigations during the background check, Washington County Sheriff Blake Andis sheriff’s said in a news release.

“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,” Andis said in the news release. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Winek family, their friends, officers, and all of those affected by this heinous crime.”

Police say Edwards drove to the Price Court home where a teenage girl who he had established an online relationship lived. At some point, Mark Winek, 69, his wife Sharie Winek, 65, and their daughter Brooke Winek, 38, were slain and the house was set ablaze. Authorities have not disclosed yet how they were killed. Edwards was seen leaving with one of Brooke Winek’s daughters, authorities said. Police had not disclosed her age.

San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies, using a description of Edwards’ car, caught up with him in the Mojave Desert town of Kelso and shot him to death during a gun battle. The teen with Edwards was found safe.

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