Riverside suspect died by suicide after killing 3 people, fleeing with teen, officials say

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Thursday, December 1, 2022
Riverside suspect died by suicide after triple murder, officials say
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A Virginia deputy duct-taped a Riverside family, killed them and set their home on fire, then fled with their teen daughter before fatally shooting himself, investigators say.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- New details have been released in the horrific murder of three members of a Riverside family, allegedly by a Virginia sheriff's deputy who traveled across the country to commit the crimes after catfishing a 15-year-old girl.

Authorities now say the suspect, 28-year-old Austin Edwards, died by suicide in Kelso, a remote area of San Bernardino County's Mojave National Preserve.

Also disclosed Wednesday was that the victims of the murder had been found with their hands and feet duct-taped.

Autopsies on the three murder victims are still pending to determine the exact cause of death, but authorities said initial indications were that they had not been shot.

Wednesday's briefing provided a new narrative of the events. Initial reports had indicated investigators thought Edwards was shot and killed by San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies in a shootout in Needles.

The county coroner conducted an autopsy on Edwards on Tuesday, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

"The manner of death was determined to be suicide caused by a self-inflicted gunshot wound," the Sheriff's Department said in a news release, adding that the incident occurred in Kelso, not in nearby Needles.

READ MORE | Neighbor saw teen being taken by suspect moments before house erupted in flames

Police say Edwards, a recently hired sheriff's deputy from Virginia, drove all the way across the country, trying to meet up with a 15-year-old girl after developing an online relationship with her by posing as a 17-year-old boy. The practice known as catfishing involves a person posing as someone else online - typically someone closer in age and with similar interests as the victim.

It's unclear exactly what happened inside the home, but Edwards is believed to have murdered the teen's mother, Brooke Winek, and grandparents Mark and Sharie Winek.

He then fled the scene with the teen. The home was spotted going up in flames moments later.

A neighbor called 911 after seeing the suspect flee the home with the girl. Authorities were able to get his license plate and track him down quickly. There was a shootout, but now authorities say he died sometime after that by his own hand.

Authorities said there is no evidence to indicate the teen girl was complicit in the crimes.

Alison Saros, a friend of the Winek family and former Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, said the teen girl remains with Child Protective Services to help her deal with the trauma.

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