Former Police Officer Catfished Teen Before Killing Her Family, Authorities Say

Former Police Officer Catfished Teen Before Killing Her Family, Authorities Say

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A former Virginia police officer posed as someone else online to get close to a teenage victim, according to recent reports from authorities in Riverside, California. The 28-year-old man, Austin Lee Edwards, reportedly met a teenage girl online and posed as a peer to get her personal information and visit her home in person.

Upon arriving at her home, Edwards is suspected to have murdered her grandfather, grandmother, and mother. He then may have purposefully set the house on fire to obscure the evidence of the crime and then kidnapped the teenager and drove her through San Bernardino County before being confronted by California law enforcement.

Catfishing

Catfishing is a form of online scam where people pose as someone they’re not. Usually, this involves using fake or doctored photos and relying on text communication instead of video calls to create the illusion of being someone else. Typically, people use this scam to convince people that they are romantic peers, often posing as younger people.

Edwards reportedly used such a scam to get closer to the teenage victim. He lived in Virginia when he met the victim online and used his fake online persona to acquire her personal information, including her home address. Edwards then traveled to her Riverside home, parking in a neighbor’s driveway before entering her residence.

Attacking the Family

Upon entering the home, Edwards is believed to have murdered the victim’s grandfather Mark Winek, 69, her grandmother Sharie Winek, 65, and her mother, Brooke Winek, 38. Their bodies were discovered after authorities conducted a wellness check. While there, they also found the house was on fire, and the blaze was spreading from room to room. 

The authorities have stated it’s their assumption that Edwards set the fire to obscure the evidence of his alleged crimes. After committing the murders, he’s been accused of kidnapping the teenager and forcing her into his vehicle before driving her through San Bernardino county. 

Final Confrontation

Upon discovering the bodies, California law enforcement officers intercepted Edwards’ vehicle. He resisted arrest and was reportedly killed in the ensuing shootout. The teenage victim has been placed in protective custody following the incident. The authorities say they were stunned to find out the perpetrator was a former police officer.

“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. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Winek family, their friends, officers, and all of those affected by this heinous crime,” noted Washington County Sheriff Blake Andis.