RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A Chesterfield man killed in a shootout with police abducted a California girl after killing her family and setting fire to her home Friday morning, authorities said.
Riverside Police said Austin Lee Edwards of North Chesterfield, Virginia, met the girl online and “fished” her before murdering her family.
“It is believed that Edwards established an online relationship with the teenager and received her personal information,” police said. “He traveled from Virginia to Riverside, where he parked his vehicle in a neighbor’s driveway and walked to the teenager’s home.”
Police said the 28-year-old then murdered the teenager’s grandfather, grandmother and mother before returning to his car and driving away with the girl.
Firefighters found 69-year-old Mary Winek, 65-year-old Sharie Winek and 38-year-old Brooke Winek dead in the entryway of their home.
“The cause of the house fire remains under investigation, although it appears at the time it was deliberately lit,” police said.
Detectives said Edwards worked for the Virginia State Police until recently and was also employed by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia.
Police: Suspect pointed gun at helicopter before officers opened fire
Police chased Edwards’ car after receiving a call for a welfare check just after 11am about a teenager “who looked distraught as he got into a red Kia Soul with a man.”
That was around the same time firefighters were called to a house fire a few houses down from where the welfare call’s check-in was made.
As a result, around 1:15 p.m., deputies spotted a red Kia Soul traveling on Highway 247 in the desert. Planes pursued Edwards until SWAT units could get on the spot. However, officials said that when the team intercepted the vehicle, Edwards did not stop and fired on the deputies.
Edwards later lost control of the car and went off the road. At that moment the girl got out and was rescued by deputies.
“Edwards got out of the vehicle and pointed a gun at the sheriff’s helicopter and the deputies shot Edwards,” the deputies said. “Upon contact, Edwards was unresponsive and was pronounced deceased at the scene.”
The girl, who was unharmed in the pursuit, is currently in protective custody.
“Our hearts go out to the Winek family and loved ones at this time of tremendous sadness as this is a tragedy for all Riversiders,” said Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez. “This is yet another terrifying reminder of the online predators that prey on our children. If you’ve already talked to your kids about staying safe online and on social media, repeat it. If not, start now to better protect them.”
Officials said their investigation and anyone with information about the case should contact Detective Josh Ontko at 951-353-7135 or [email protected] or Detective Bryan Galbreath at 951-353-7105 or [email protected] Those wishing to remain anonymous can email [email protected]
Count on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email [email protected] to submit a tip.