Riverside family sues sheriff's office after deputy kidnapped girl, killed her mother, grandparents

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Friday, November 17, 2023
IE family of victims allegedly killed by Virginia deputy file lawsuit
A Riverside family is suing the Virginia sheriff's office that hired Austin Edwards, who allegedly "catfished" a 15-year-old girl before killing her mother and grandparents.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- It been almost been a year since Mychelle Blandin received the call that would change her life forever. A neighbor phoned to say her parent's Riverside home was on fire.

Inside firefighters would discover her mother, father and younger sister all bound and gagged; all three had been murdered.

"Our lives were ultimately destroyed when this crime happened. It was the day after Thanksgiving. So, going into the holiday season right after was extremely dramatic," said Blandin.

Blandin with Attorney David Ring has filed a lawsuit against the Washington County sheriff's office in Virginia. It's the law enforcement agency that hired 28-year-old Austin Lee Edwards.

Edwards murdered Mark Winek, 69, Sharie Winek 65 and their daughter Brooke Winek 38, before kidnapping Brooke's then 15-year-old daughter. Police said Edwards met the teen online after posing as a 17-year-old boy.

"How in the world did someone who is in a psychiatric facility who had a court order issued against him that expressly prohibited from possessing a fire arm get hired by a sheriff's department," said attorney David Ring.

Riverside murders: Tearful family member pays tribute to victims amid probe in 'catfishing' case

Days after her three family members were found murdered following a house fire in Riverside, a family member spoke out an emotional news conference.

The lawsuit alleges negligence on the part of Edwards' employer due to his mental health history and a judge's order revoking his gun ownership rights.

"They gave him a badge and a gun and it was entirely predictable what was going to happen because that guy was a danger to the community," said Ring.

Blandin says Edwards used his position to gain entry to her parent's home.

"Him identifying himself as law enforcement showing his badge my parents believed and let into their home," said Blandin.

Edwards was eventually confronted by law enforcement but committed suicide before he could be taken into custody. Blandin's niece was found unharmed.

"It is accountability, we want accountability, we want answers and how did this happen? How did the state of Virginia let this happen?" said Blandin.

It's been a year of heartbreak, healing and now the time has come for long over due answers which Blandin hopes the lawsuit will provide.

Eyewitness News reached out to the Washington County sheriff's office which did not respond to our request for a comment or statement by air time.