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Man met California girl online, killed her mom, grandparents before abducting her, police say

Nov. 28, 2022 Updated Mon., Nov. 28, 2022 at 12:19 p.m.

 (Dreamstime/Dreamstime/TNS)
(Dreamstime/Dreamstime/TNS)
By Laura Newberry Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — The deaths of three people found Friday in a burning home in Riverside, California, are thought to be connected to the attempted abduction of a teenage girl.

As police were en route to the 11200 block of Price Court for a welfare check on a man and a young woman who were having “some type of disturbance” outside a residence, dispatchers received calls from motorists of smoke pouring from a home in the same block, said Officer Ryan Railsback, a spokesman for the Riverside Police Department.

Firefighters responded and were extinguishing the fire when they discovered the bodies of a man and two women inside the house, Railsback said. The victims were identified as Mark Winek, 69; his wife, Sharie Winek, 65; and their daughter Brooke Winek, 38.

Investigators have determined that the woman involved in the outdoor disturbance was a teenager who lived in the house, Railsback said. The man she was with — Austin Lee Edwards, 28, of North Chesterfield, Virginia — was identified as the main suspect in the three deaths, he said. Edwards was tracked Friday evening to San Bernardino County, where he was fatally shot by sheriff’s deputies near Needles after firing a gun at officers, law enforcement officials said.

Riverside police detectives determined that Edwards had met the teenage girl online and misrepresented who he was, Railsback said.

Edwards traveled from Virginia to Riverside, where he parked his vehicle in a neighbor’s driveway and walked to the teen’s home, officials said. The exact cause and manner of the three deaths are under investigation, but police believe Edwards murdered the teen’s grandfather, grandmother and mother before taking the teen to his vehicle and driving away, according to officials.

The teen was not harmed.

Edwards was formerly employed by the Virginia State Police and more recently worked for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia, Railsback said.

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