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Former Virginia state trooper shot dead by cops after kidnapping teen girl, killing family, torching house

On Friday, former Virginia state trooper Austin Lee Edwards kidnapped a teen he had driven across the country to meet, murdered her mother and grandparents, and set fire to their house.

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Jarryd Jaeger Vancouver, BC
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On Friday, former Virginia state trooper Austin Lee Edwards kidnapped a teen he had driven across the country to meet, murdered her mother and grandparents, and set fire to their house.

Edwards, who conned the teen into giving him her personal details via an online catfish scheme, fled, but was tracked down by law enforcement and shot dead hours later following a chase on Highway 247, according to the Daily Mail.

At around 11 am, law enforcement in Riverside, California received calls reporting a "distressed" teen getting into a vehicle outside the home along the 11200 block of Price Court. The fire department was simultaneously notified that the building was on fire.

When the blaze was extinguished, the bodies of Mark Winek, his wife Sharie, and their 38-year-old daughter Brooke were recovered and taken away.

As the Daily Mail reports, a neighbor alleged that he saw via his binoculars that the victims had been bound and gagged. 

"Their hands were tied behind their backs," 68-year-old Sergio Gutierrez claimed. "One lady had tape over her mouth. It was frightening."

After escaping from Edwards' car following the aforementioned police chase, the teen was taken into protective custody by the Riverside County Department of Public and Social Services.

"We had a grandmother, grandfather and a mother of this teen murdered by this suspect who traveled from across the country for, most likely, the sexual exploitation of this teenager," said Officer Ryan Railsback of the Riverside Police Department. 

The department chief, Larry Gonzalez, called the incident "a tragedy for all Riversiders," and urged parents to talk with their children about online predators.

A GoFundMe was set up over the weekend to raise money for the Winek's funeral expenses and has since raised nearly $50,000.

Edwards had been employed with the Washington County Sheriff's Department in Virginia before resigning in October.

In a statement, the department said it was "shocking and sad" that "such an evil and wicked person could infiltrate law enforcement while concealing his true identity as a computer predator and murderer."

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