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Suspect in Riverside triple homicide was police officer for less than 1 year

The man who police say killed three members of a Riverside family on Friday, Nov. 25, had been on the job as a sheriff’s deputy in Virginia less than two weeks at the time of the attack, his department said.

Austin Lee Edwards, 28, completed the Virginia State Police Academy in January. He then joined the Virginia State Police and worked as a trooper. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office hired Edwards on Nov. 16, and he was going through orientation before being assigned to the patrol division, the Sheriff’s Office said.

No past employer, including the Virginia State Police, disclosed any trouble, discipline or investigations during the background check, the Sheriff’s Office said.

“It is shocking and sad to the entire law enforcement community that such an evil and wicked person could infiltrate law enforcement while concealing his true identity as a computer predator and murderer,” Washington County Sheriff Blake Andis said in a news release. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Winek family, their friends, officers, and all of those affected by this heinous crime.”

Police say Edwards drove to the Price Court home where a teenage girl who he had established an online relationship lived. At some point, Mark Winek, 69, his wife Sharie Winek, 65, and their daughter Brooke Winek, 38, were slain and the house was set ablaze. Edwards was seen leaving with one of Brooke Winek’s daughters, authorities said.

San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies, using a description of Edwards’ car, caught up with him in the Mojave Desert town of Kelso and shot him to death during a gun battle. The teen with Edwards was found safe.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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