The California triple-murder suspect was an officer with the Virginia State Police for about a year before starting with the Washington County Sheriff’s Department as a deputy, police revealed.
More information is being brought to light about Austin Lee Edwards, the Virginia law enforcement officer accused of “catfishing,” or pretending to be someone else while establishing a relationship with a Riverside teenager, before traveling to California to meet her and allegedly murdering her family.
Edwards was shot and killed by San Bernardino County deputies after leading deputies on a short chase on Nov. 25. The teenage girl from Riverside was with him at the time, but was unharmed.
Edwards is accused of killing the girl’s mother, 38-year-old Brooke Winek, and her grandparents, 69-year-old Mark Winek and 65-year-old Sharie Winek, before setting their family home on fire and taking off with the teenage girl.
Edwards had a short law enforcement career, according to FOX 11 Los Angeles. Virginia State Police told the TV station that Edwards entered the academy in July 2021, and graduated in January 2022. He was assigned to Henrico County, which surrounds Richmond. He was with the department until last month.
Virginia State Police said Edwards “never exhibited any behaviors to trigger any internal administrative or criminal investigations.” The department added that he passed his pre-employment background check, polygraph test and psychological evaluations.
Edwards joined Washington County Sheriff’s Office just one week prior to allegedly killing the Winek family, FOX 11 reports. The department said none of Edwards’ former employers disclosed anything to cause them any concern.
“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,” Washington County Sheriff Blake Andis said in a social media statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Winek family, their friends, officers, and all of those affected by this heinous crime.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.