Authorities said on Wednesday that a Virginia sheriff’s deputy posed as a 17-year-old boy online and asked a California teen for naked pictures. He then drove across the country, killed the teen’s mother, grandparents, and set their house on fire, before returning to Virginia and killing himself.
Austin Lee Edwards, 28, committed suicide Friday following a gunfight with San Bernardino police. At a press conference Wednesday, family and authorities said the 15-year-old girl from Riverside, California, was rescued and is in trauma treatment.
Police claimed Edwards, of North Chesterfield, Virginia, posed online as a teenager to “catfish” the girl and get her personal information.
Authorities did not disclose their discussions and stated they needed to review internet accounts. Officials are investigating if he harmed additional youngsters nationwide.
Officials didn’t know whether this was the girl’s first meeting with Edwards or if she knew he was going to California.
Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez said it would take time to interview the child and address concerns like if she was pressured or intimidated into going with him due to her young age and trauma.
“We don’t think she did the killings,” he stated.
At some point, Edwards asked the girl for sexual images, and she stopped talking with him, Gonzalez said, but police don’t yet know when that occurred or if Edwards murdered her family in retribution.
Authorities say Edwards parked in a neighbor’s driveway, went to the residence, and murdered the family before departing with the child on Friday. How he entered the residence, murdered the victims, and lit the fire is unknown.