“Sextortion” drove an ex-Virginia trooper’s catfishing of a teen woman and killing of her mom and grandparents in Southern California final week, police stated at a information convention Wednesday.
Police consider Austin Lee Edwards, 28, a former trooper with the Virginia State Police who was working for the Washington County Sheriff’s Workplace, portrayed himself as a 17-year-old on-line with a purpose to have interaction the woman, who lived in Riverside, California, Police Chief Larry Gonzalez stated.
Edwards had traveled from Virginia to Riverside and was killed in a shootout with police.
“That is one more horrific reminder of the predators current on-line who prey on our kids,” Gonzalez stated.
Gonzalez stated sextortion consists of grooming kids with the purpose of getting sexual conversations on-line, buying and selling sexually specific photographs to make use of or presumably promote, or assembly in individual.
“Such a victimization takes place throughout each platform — social media, messaging apps, gaming platforms, et cetera,” he stated.
Widespread strategies of facilitating it, Gonzalez instructed reporters, embrace grooming ways similar to sexual dialog or role-playing; asking for or sharing sexually specific photos; creating a rapport by means of compliments, discussing shared pursuits and ‘liking’ their on-line posts; pretending to be youthful; and providing or offering incentives for a continued relationship similar to alcohol, medication, lodging, transportation or meals.
It was not instantly clear the place on-line the catfishing occurred or which of the above ways, if any, Edwards employed past pretending to be youthful.
A spokesperson for the Riverside Police Division didn’t instantly reply to follow-up inquiries from NBC Information.
The woman’s aunt, Mychelle Blandin, 43, who can be the sister of the woman’s late mom, 38-year-old Brooke Winek, and the daughter of the woman’s late grandparents, 69-year-old Mark Winek and 65-year-old Sharie Winek, instructed reporters on Wednesday the woman is 15 years outdated.
She is presently within the custody of Little one Protecting Providers and receiving trauma counseling, a buddy of the household stated.
Police stated they’re “not describing it as a kidnapping at this level.”
“We do not know but if she was threatened, coerced,” Riverside Police Division spokesperson Ryan Railsback instructed reporters, including that officers “haven’t any purpose to consider” that she was concerned in planning or finishing up the hearth or murders.
Police are are also investigating what Edwards’ intention was with the woman following the hearth and murders, officers stated.
Officers haven’t but launched the reason for demise and autopsies nonetheless have to be performed, Railsback stated.
The spokesperson added police have “no purpose to consider he used a firearm to kill the victims.”
“It was very disturbing — we wish to be delicate with members of the family how we describe to them, and the way it’s described to the general public, how their three family members had been discovered,” Railsback added. “It was apparent that they had been murdered, we do know that.”
The our bodies of the Wineks had been found after officers had been known as to Riverside’s La Sierra South neighborhood simply after 11 a.m. on Nov. 25. It was a welfare test of a woman who appeared distressed whereas getting right into a crimson Kia Soul with a person, the town’s police division stated in a information launch.
Whereas officers had been responding, police started to obtain calls a few structural fireplace only a few homes away from the place the welfare name was reported.
The Riverside Hearth Division arrived on the residence to discover a fireplace on the primary ground. After they entered, they found three adults mendacity on the bottom, police stated.
“Their our bodies had been pulled exterior the place it was decided they had been victims of an obvious murder,” the Riverside Police Division stated, including that firefighters had been in a position to put the hearth out.
Edwards was accused of driving off with the woman after the killings. Authorities tracked his automotive down a number of hours later as he was driving with the teenager by means of San Bernardino County within the unincorporated space of Kelso.
When deputies with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Division caught as much as Edwards, the suspect fired gunshots at them, earlier than being fatally shot by at the very least one deputy, police stated. Edwards was pronounced useless on the scene.
A spokesperson for the Virginia State Police stated Edwards entered its academy on July 6, 2021, and graduated as a trooper on Jan. 21 of this yr. He was assigned to Henrico County, which is throughout the Richmond Division, they stated, earlier than his October resignation.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Workplace stated in a information launch on Monday that officers employed Edwards on Nov. 16 and that he “had lately started orientation to be assigned to the patrol division.”
A spokesperson for the Washington County Sheriff’s Workplace didn’t instantly reply to a query about his title with the workplace.
Blandin and Gonzalez on Wednesday urged mother and father to speak to their kids in regards to the risks of speaking to strangers on-line.
“Please, mother and father, guardians, when you’re speaking to your kids in regards to the risks of their on-line actions, please use us as a reference,” Blandin stated. “Inform our story to assist your parenting — not out of worry, however out of instance of one thing that did occur.”