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HomeusCalifornia family murdered by Virginia man who 'catfished' teen girl: police

California family murdered by Virginia man who 'catfished' teen girl: police

Authorities have announced additional information about what they believe led to a triple murder in Riverside, California.

The teenage daughter of one of the victims found following a house fire was taken by a Virginia man who had been “catfishing” her online, according to a press release.

Just after 11 a.m. Friday, Riverside police officers were called to a home for reports of a disturbance between a man and a teen girl. Officers said the teen “appeared distressed” while getting into a Red Kia Soul with a man who was later identified as 28-year-old Austin Lee Edwards of North Chesterfield, Virginia. 

While officers were responding to the welfare check, a call came in for a house fire nearby. Authorities later learned the house on fire was the girl’s home. The Riverside Fire Department initiated a fire attack and made entry when they found three adult victims lying on the ground in the front entryway. Their bodies were pulled outside, where it was determined they were victims of homicide.

CALIFORNIA HOUSE FIRE BEING INVESTIGATED AS TRIPLE HOMICIDE AFTER 3 FOUND DEAD

69-year-old Mark Winek, 65-year-old Sharie Winek and 38-year-old Brooke Winek found dead inside Riverside, Calif. home.

69-year-old Mark Winek, 65-year-old Sharie Winek and 38-year-old Brooke Winek found dead inside Riverside, Calif. home.
(Riverside Police Department)

The victims were identified as the girl’s mother, 38-year-old Brooke Winek, and her grandparents, 69-year-old Mark Winek and 65-year-old Sharie Winek. The exact cause and manner of their deaths are still under investigation.

The cause of the house fire is also still under investigation, although authorities say it appears to have been intentionally ignited.

LA CITY COUNCILMAN SAYS ‘KIDS ARE AFRAID TO WALK TO SCHOOL’ DUE TO NEEDLES, HUMAN WASTE, PSYCHOTIC BEHAVIOR

Austin Lee Edwards, 28, is accused of killing three people in Riverside. He was shot and killed by San Bernardino County Deputies.

Austin Lee Edwards, 28, is accused of killing three people in Riverside. He was shot and killed by San Bernardino County Deputies.
(Riverside Police Department)

Several hours later, Edwards was discovered driving with the teen through San Bernardino County in the unincorporated area of Kelso where he was located by deputies. 

When confronted, Edwards allegedly fired shots at deputies before they fired back, killing him. The teen was unharmed, and taken into protective custody.

  • Scene of deadly fire in CA Image 1 of 3

    11200 block of Price Court in Riverside, CA (KTTV-TV)

  • Fire in Riverside, CA Image 2 of 3

    Police say that a fire where three people were found dead in Riverside, CA is being investigated as a homicide (KTTV-TV)

  • Photo from Riverside, CA house fire Image 3 of 3

    Three people were found dead after a Riverside, CA that authorities are treating as a homicide (KTTV-TV)

Officials say Edwards met the girl online and “catfished” her, pretending to be someone he was not. After developing a relationship with her and getting her personal information, he traveled from Virginia to Riverside to see her, they said. Edwards allegedly parked his car in a neighbor’s driveway, walked to the girl’s home, and murdered her mother and grandparents prior to leaving with the teen. 

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Edwards had worked for the Virginia State Police and until recently was employed at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia, officials said.

“Our hearts go out to the Winek family and their loved ones during this time of tremendous grief, as this is a tragedy for all Riversiders,” Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez said in a statement. “This is yet another horrific reminder of the predators existing online who prey on our children. If you’ve already had a conversation with your kids on how to be safe online and on social media, have it again. If not, start it now to better protect them.” 

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