Suspect killed after murdering family of teen he had catfished online

A former Virginia state law enforcement officer was killed during a shootout with police, after he allegedly “catfished” a teenage girl online before traveling to Riverside, California, and killing her family. County authorities said the suspect, Austin Lee Edward, 28, died in the shootout.

Three victims were discovered on Friday while investigating a house fire. Police also received a report of a girl “who appeared distressed” while getting into a car with a man, Riverside police said.  Police said the teen’s family members were found dead in the house from apparent homicides: the teen’s grandparents, 69-year-old Mark Winek; his wife, 65-year-old Sharie Winek; and the teen’s mother, 38-year-old Brooke Winek. The fire appears to have been intentionally set, police said, adding that the causes of death were still pending.

Authorities said they spotted Edwards driving with the teen several hours after the victims were found. Edwards allegedly led deputies on a chase and fired shots at them, losing control of his car and drove off the road. Deputies then fired at Edwards who was declared dead at the scene  The teen was rescued and was not injured, according to police.

Detectives said Edwards had worked for the Virginia State Police until recently employed at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in the state of Virginia. Riverside police said they determined Edwards met the teen online through “‘catfishing,’ where someone pretends to be a different person than they actually are.  Police believe that after Edwards developed a relationship with the girl online, he drove to Riverside, 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.

Editorial credit: New Africa / Shutterstock.com

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