A teenage girl in California was “catfished” by a man who then murdered her mother and grandparents on Friday, police said. The Riverside Police Department was initially made aware of the crimes after receiving reports of a “young female who appeared distressed” as she was getting into a car with a man. This was the first time the department was made aware of the offenses. During the time the police were on their way to the scene, a fire was reported in the neighborhood just a few houses away from where the girl had been spotted.
When firefighters entered the burning building to put out the blaze, they discovered three victims laying on the floor inside. According to a news release that was issued by the police on Sunday, they stated that “their bodies were pulled outdoors where it was discovered that they were the victims of an apparent homicide.”
Mark Winek, who was 69 years old, his wife, Sharie Winek, who was 65 years old, and their daughter, Brooke Winek, who was 38 years old were identified as the victims. The young woman who was found to be in distress was confirmed to be Brooke Winek’s adolescent daughter, who also resided on the premises where the fire began, according to the preliminary findings. According to the authorities, it looked that the fire had been “deliberately lit.”
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Austin Lee Edwards, a man in his twenties who lives in North Chesterfield, Virginia, was eventually recognized as the adult male seen with the young girl. Edwards was discovered traveling with the child in Kelso at the same time that the officials in Riverside were notifying other agencies about the triple homicide. Before he was killed in the gunfight, Edwards fired fire on officers from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
The juvenile girl was not injured in any way, and the Department of Public Services for Riverside County has taken her into protective custody as a precaution. It was subsequently determined by the investigators that Edwards had met the girl “via the prevalent form of online deceit known as ‘catfishing,’ where someone pretends to be a different person than they actually are,” according to the statement made by the police.
It is believed that the two individuals engaged in a connection with one another over the internet, during which Edwards gained the girl’s personal information. After that, he drove from Virginia to Riverside, California, where he parked his vehicle in the driveway of a neighbor and then walked to the teen’s house. The cops went on to say, “At some point, he murdered the youngster’s grandfather, grandmother, and mother before heading back to his vehicle with the teen and departing.”
Investigators also found out that Edwards had previously served in the Virginia State Police and had more recently been hired by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia. Both of these positions are located in Virginia.
In a statement, Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez expressed his condolences to the Winek family and their loved ones, saying, “Our hearts go out to the Winek family and their loved ones during this time of tremendous sadness, as this is a tragedy for all Riversiders.”
“This is another horrifying reminder that there are predators online who prey on our children. The internet is full of them.” Have another discussion with your children on how they can stay safe when using social media and the internet, even if you’ve already had one. If not, you should begin immediately in order to better safeguard them.”
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