A Virginia sheriff's deputy catfished a California teenager, drove across the country, killed 3 of her family members, set fire to her house, and tried to kidnap her
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Mark Winek, 69, his wife, 65-year-old Sharie Winek, and their daughter, 38-year-old Brooke Winek, were killed Nov. 25 by a Virginia sheriff's deputy who had been fishing for Brooke's teenage daughter
Austin Lee Edwards, a Virginia sheriff's deputy, killed three people in a catfishing program in California.
Edwards fished a Riverside teenager, drove across country to her home, then killed her family.
He tried to kidnap the girl and burn down her house but was killed in a shootout with police.
A Virginia sheriff's deputy was identified by officials Sunday night as the perpetrator of a California triple homicide who completed a tragic catfishing scheme he hatched as part of an apparent attempt to kidnap a teenager.
On Friday morning, November 25, Riverside, Calif. police received a call for a welfare check after a young woman in distress was seen being led into a car by a man, the Riverside Police Department said in a statement .
Firefighters were the first to arrive at the scene, as more calls were received at the same time about a fire at a nearby home. Inside the burning home, firefighters found the bodies of three apparent murder victims, who were later identified as 69-year-old Mark Winek, his wife, 65-year-old Sharie Winek, and their daughter, 38-year-old Brooke Winek.
After an investigation, Brooke Winek's teenage daughter was found later that day while being driven through Riverside County by 28-year-old Austin Lee Edwards of North Chesterfield, Virginia, who was shooting at police and in a shootout in the unincorporated area Kelso was killed.
Virginia Sheriff's Deputy Austin Lee Edward was killed in a shootout with police in California after a triple murder. Riverside Police Department
"It is believed that Edwards formed an online relationship with the teenager and obtained her personal information," the Riverside Police Department said in a statement, indicating that he had fished the teenager. "He traveled from Virginia to Riverside, where he parked his vehicle in a neighbor's driveway and walked to the teenager's home. At one point, he murdered the teenager's grandfather, grandmother, and mother before walking back to his vehicle with the teenager and leaving.
The Riverside Police Department did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
Edward's hometown of North Chesterfield is more than 2,500 miles from Riverside. It's unclear when he first traveled to the state of California or how he communicated with teenage boy Winek. Edwards, a former Virginia State Police Trooper, was hired less than two weeks ago as the Washington County Sheriff's Department Deputy and assigned to his Patrol Division.
"It is shocking and saddening to the entire law enforcement community that such a vicious and evil individual is able to infiltrate law enforcement while hiding their true identity as a computer thief and murderer," Washington County Sheriff Blake Andis said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Winek family, their friends, officers and everyone affected by this heinous crime."
The Washington County Sheriff's Department did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
Although the extent of sexual misconduct by police officers is unknown due to a lack of reporting and systematic efforts to cover up such crimes, an Associated Press investigation found that about 1,000 officers lost their licenses to commit sex crimes, including rape and possession, over a six-year period of child pornography — a number that the AP says is certainly underestimated.
The minor Winek was "unharmed," according to officials, and a GoFundMe has been set up to provide funds for her and her sister, also a teenager, following the deaths of her mother and grandparents.
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