The Winek Case

Payton Tucker, Staff Reporter

Catfishing in the world today is sometimes seen as a funny yet comical thing whether it’s a tv show, or Dr. Phil everybody knows catfishing. What a lot of people don’t recognize is that it can be incredibly dangerous and deadly. A local teen girl by the age of 15 who lived in Riverside cul-de-sac had made a new friend online little did she know, that this man was a newly minted officer who was willing to drive all the way down from Virginia to get home on a Friday morning. The officer, now disclosed as Austin Lee Edwards, proceeded once the family had arrived, killing the three victims; Mark Winek 69, his wife, Sharie Winek 65, and their daughter Brooke Winke, who had been living there with Brooke’s two teenage daughters. Neighbors had reported that they heard distress from the teenage girl and a male suspect who had got into a red Kia Soul. He had killed the victims then took the 15 year old and fled the scene, but not before starting a fire. The search had begun; it was only several hours later, she was 200 miles from home, that the authorities had spotted Edward, in San Bernardino County.

When the SWAT team had arrived at the scene to interpret the car, it was discovered that Edward was not going to give up easily. Leading locals on a chase, in which Edward shot at a SWAT car multiple times. Finally after some time Edward drove off road and it resulted in him being caught. However Edward pulled out his gun, and he pointed it at the Sheriff’s Department Helicopter, making it where depties had to fire at Edwards and killing him. The teen was unharmed, and it wasn’t clear if she had been threatened by Edwards. The detectives had confirmed that this teen had met Edward through catfishing, in which Edward faked who he was in order to gain a relationship with the teen, as to get sensitive information like where she lived, and much more. Edwards however ten days before the incident was hired by the Washington’s County Sheriff’s office in Virginia, it was also found out that before that he also worked with the Virginia State police.

Neighbors from all sides of their street, A few of the neighbors including Antionio Castro and Sergio Guiterezz, the rest who did not give their names, had reported they had also heard a fight between the teen girl and the man. This includes footage of Castro’s cameras which also caught footage of both Edward and the teen arguing. Castro had stated “This is so sad.” Sergio had been called by his son that day to come home because the Windeks’ home had started to burn, and his son was concerned that the other houses would lit up with fire as well. When Sergio arrived home he saw that the emergency personnel bringing the three victims out burnt with duct taped hands behind their back. “It felt horrible seeing it.” said Guiterezz. Mark Winek had been a softball coach at local high schools, his hair was pink at the time due to making a friendly wager with a friend about his team winning. In which the team lost so he had to dye his hair pink. He was constantly around whenever there was a game. “Mark, Sharie, and Brooke were loving people who didn’t deserve this tragedy,” The Windek family wrote Monday in a public statement. The family has thanked everybody for their love and support during this horrific time in their lives.

In the final statements from the police Chief, Larry Gonzalez he says “Our hearts go out to the Winek family and their loved ones during this time of tremendous grief, as this is a tragedy for all riversiders.” As well as in another statement “This is yet another horrific reminder of predators existing online who prey on our children. If you’ve already had a conversation with your kids on how to be safe online and on social media, have it again. If not, start now to better protect them.” This is a tragic case in which a family lost their lives to catfishing. We give our hearts to the Winek family in their time of need.