RIVERSIDE, Calif. — The suspect in a triple homicide in Riverside, who was shot and killed by deputies with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Friday, has been identified as a 28-year-old man who used to be employed with the Virginia State Police.
Authorities with the Riverside Police Department said that around 11 a.m. on Nov. 25, officers had been dispatched to a welfare check of a young a woman who appeared to be in distress while getting into a red Kia Soul with a man in the 11200 block of Price Court and leaving with him.
While officers were responding, reports of a fire at a home, just a few houses away from where the welfare-check call originated, came in.
Crews with the Riverside Fire Department arrived to the scene and entered the home where they discovered three adult victims lying on the ground in the entryway.
“Their bodies were pulled outside where it was determined they were victims of an apparent homicide,” officials with RPD said in a news release.
A preliminary investigation revealed that the young woman was a teenager who lived where the house fire and the homicides occurred.
The man that she was with was later identified as Austin Lee Edwards, a resident of North Chesterfield, Virginia.
“Information was related to allied law enforcement agencies regarding the triple homicide and Edwards,” police said. “Several hours later, he was discovered driving with the teen through San Bernardino County…in the unincorporated area of Kelso.”
Police said that Edwards fired shots at deputies who returned fire, killing him. The 28-year-old was declared dead at the scene.
The teenage girl was unharmed and was later placed into protective custody of the Riverside County Department of Public and Social Services.
“Detectives determined Edwards had met the female teenager through the common form of online deception known as ‘catfishing,’ where someone pretends to be a different person than they actually are,” authorities said in the release. “It is believed Edwards had developed an online relationship with the teen and obtained her personal information. He traveled from Virginia to Riverside where he parked his car in a neighbor’s driveway and walked into the teen’s home.”
That’s when police say Edwards murdered the teen’s grandfather, grandmother and mother.
“Detectives learned Edwards had worked for the Virginia State Police until recently employed at the Washington County Sheriff’s office in Virginia,” the release noted.
The three victims have been identified as 69-year-old Mark Winek, his 65-year-old wife Sharie Winek and their daughter, 38-year-old Brooke Winek.
A GoFundMe campaign has been started to help with the funeral expenses of the three victims and the continued support of two teenage girls who lost their family members.
Authorities stated the investigation was ongoing and that anyone with additional or relevant information should contact the Riverside Police Department.