RIVERSIDE, Calif. - The state trooper who catfished a young Riverside teenager and killed her family, apparently bought a new house just days before the murder occurred.
According to real estate records obtained by TMZ, Austin Lee Edwards, 28, bought a 2-bed, 1-bath house in Saltville, Virginia on November 14, 2022 for $80,000.
The home was bought 11 days before he arrived in Riverside, California and killed three members of the Winek family.
Neighbors in Virginia say he blacked out the windows of the new house immediately after moving in. According to TMZ, Edwards also went to the water department to shut off his utilities.
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Officials say the Virginia sheriff’s deputy posed as a 17-year-old boy online and asked the Riverside teenage girl for nude photos before he drove across the country and killed her mother, 38-year-old Brooke Winek, and grandparents, 69-year-old Mark Winek and 65-year-old Sharie Winek and set their house on fire.
He then left with the girl. Police said they are not investigating this as a kidnapping.
Edwards died by suicide Friday during a shootout with San Bernardino sheriff’s deputies in Needles, California. The teenage girl was with him in the car and taken into safety by law enforcement.
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It is unclear if this was their first in-person encounter or whether the girl was aware that he was coming to California, officials said.
Edwards was in law enforcement. He was formerly with the Virginia State Police, and most recently as a county sheriff in Washington County, Virginia. He had a short law enforcement career. According to the Virginia State Police, Edwards entered the academy in July 2021, and graduated in January 2022, assigned to Henrico County, which surrounds Richmond. He was with the department until last month.