A Virginia man allegedly “catfished” a teenage girl online before traveling to Riverside, California, and killing her family, according to police.
The murders were discovered on Friday after authorities received a report of a girl “who appeared distressed” while getting into a car with a man, Riverside police said.
As officers responded to that report, they received calls of a fire at a nearby house.
Police said three family members were found dead in the house from apparent homicides: 69-year-old Mark Winek; his wife, 65-year-old Sharie Winek; and their daughter, 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 determined that the teenage girl seen getting into the car lived at that house and the victims killed were her mother and grandparents.
The man getting in the car with the teen was identified as 28-year-old Austin Lee Edwards of Virginia, according to police.
Several hours after the three bodies were found, authorities said they spotted Edwards driving with the teen.
Edwards — who had worked for the Virginia State Police and a local Virginia sheriff’s office — allegedly led deputies on a chase and fired shots at them, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office said. Edwards lost control of his car and drove off the road, pointing a gun at a sheriff’s helicopter, according to the sheriff’s office.
Deputies then fired at Edwards who was declared dead at the scene, the sheriff’s office said.
The teen was rescued and wasn’t hurt, according to police.
Riverside police said they determined Edwards met the teen online through “‘catfishing,’ where someone pretends to be a different person than they actually are.”
After Edwards developed a relationship with the girl online, police said they believe 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, according to police.
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