Virginia man accused of ‘catfishing’ teen before killing her family, police say

Riverside, California. Photo Credit: ABC News (Fair Use)

A former Virginia law enforcement officer, who is believed to have murdered a teenager’s family in Riverside, California, after “catfishing” her online, was killed in a shootout while trying to evade police, the city’s police department said in a news press release.

  • CNN – The ex-cop was identified as Austin Lee Edwards, 28, of North Chesterfield Virginia. Detectives said they believe Edwards had met the teen through “catfishing,” a form of online deception in which someone pretends to be a different person.
  • ABC6 – After Edwards developed a relationship with the girl online, police said they believe he drove from Virginia to California, parked in a neighbor’s driveway, went to the girl’s home and killed her family. Edwards then allegedly took the teen and drove away, according to police. The girl has since been rescued.
  • NBC NEWS – It wasn’t clear if Edwards, 28, was a sworn officer when he allegedly killed 69-year-old Mark Winek; his wife, 65-year-old Sharie Winek; and their daughter, 38-year-old Brooke Winek. Washington County Sheriff Blake Andis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
  • CBS NEWS – The SWAT team intercepted Edwards’ car as he began traveling east on Highway 62, at which point, the suspect fled and subsequently proceeded to fire at officers, striking the SWAT vehicle multiple times, according to the sheriff’s department. The car chase ended when Edwards “lost control” of his vehicle and drove off the road, the department said, adding that he was killed by officers upon stepping out of the Kia Soul and firing again in their direction. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and an autopsy will be conducted to formally determine a cause of death.