Family member of California triple murder victims in teen 'catfishing' case speaks out

Daughter, sister speak about alleged 'catfisher' who murdered family in Riverside, California

Less than a week after a family was found murdered during a house fire in southern California, the daughter and sister of the victims spoke at an emotional update that included the latest on the investigation from police officials.

"Parents, please, please know your child's online activity. Ask questions about what they are doing and whom they are talking to," Mychelle Blandin pleaded. "This was an adult that traveled across the country to kidnap a 15-year-old girl."

Blandin was speaking about deceased suspect Austin Lee Edwards, a former law enforcement officer from Virginia, who is accused of murdering her parents, intentionally setting their home on fire and taking off with her niece before being encountered by deputies near the California-Arizona border. 

Edwards was shot and killed by San Bernardino County deputies after leading deputies on a short chase on Nov. 25. The teenage girl from Riverside was with him at the time, but was unharmed. 


Instigators say Edwards "catfished" or pretended to be someone else while establishing an online relationship with the Riverside teenager. 

"This is another horrific example of predators existing online and preying on our children," Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez said. 

69-year-old Mark Winek, 65-year-old Sharie Winek and 38-year-old Brooke Winek found dead inside Riverside, Calif. home.

69-year-old Mark Winek, 65-year-old Sharie Winek and 38-year-old Brooke Winek found dead inside Riverside, Calif. home. (Riverside Police Department)

Police said it is still being investigated if the teen left willingly with Edwards. It is not known which online platform the two were talking on or for how long prior to Edward's arrival in California. Authorities hope to determine a lot more information through a digital investigation.

Police did say they do not believe the teen girl was involved in the murders or fire or that she knew prior to the occurrences.  

Edwards had a short law enforcement career, according to FOX 11 Los Angeles. Virginia State Police told the TV station that Edwards entered the academy in July 2021 and graduated in January 2022. He was assigned to Henrico County, which surrounds Richmond. He was with the department until last month.


Edwards joined Washington County Sheriff's Office just one week prior to allegedly killing the Winek family, FOX 11 reports. The department said none of Edwards' former employers disclosed anything to cause them any concern.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.