Ex-trooper bought house, darkened windows, weeks before allegedly killed family of teen he catfished, seller says

Weeks before a former Virginia state agent allegedly murdered three members of a California family in a “catfishing” scheme, he bought a house unseen and blacked out the windows, the man who sold him the house said Friday.

Jacob Gordon, 28, said in an interview that Austin Lee Edwards, who was killed on Nov. 25 in a shootout with authorities, made an offer hours after it was announced for the two-bedroom home in Southwest Saltville from Virginia. posted in the first week of October.

Edwards, 28, asked almost no questions about the house and moved in on Nov. 14, Gordon said. Property records from Smyth County, Virginia, list Austin Lee Edwards as the owner of the home on Allison Gap Road. Records say he paid $79,900.

‘It still doesn’t feel real’ Gordon told NBC affiliate WCYB of Bristol, Virginia. “It’s something you never dream of.”

The house bought by Austin Lee Edwards, in Saltville, Virginia.Thanks to Jacob Gordon

TMZ reported first sales.

Authorities believe Edwards posed as a 17-year-old while interacting with a teenage girl in Riverside, California. Edwards traveled there and is accused of murdering the 15-year-old’s mother, Brooke Winek, 38; and grandparents, Mark Winek, 69, and Sharie Winek, 65, authorities in Riverside have said.

A fire broke out in their home that authorities believe was set deliberately and Edwards allegedly drove off with the teen. San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies found them hours later and fatally shot Edwards after he opened fire, the Riverside Police Department said.

The girl is in child protection custody and receiving trauma therapy, a friend of the family said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Family photographs part of a memorial in the driveway of the home where three family members were murdered, on Nov. 29, 2022, in Riverside, California.
Family photographs part of a memorial in the driveway of the home where three family members were murdered, on Nov. 29, 2022, in Riverside, California.Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Edwards resigned from the Virginia State Police in October, about 10 months after graduating from the academy. The department has declined to say why, citing a state law that prohibits them from releasing additional details.

The agency declined a request for NBC News public records seeking personnel records.

Edwards had recently begun orientation and was in the process of transferring to the patrol division of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office when he moved into the Saltville home.

The sheriff’s office has previously said a background check showed that Edwards was not subject to reprimands, internal investigations or other issues.

After moving into the house, Edwards hung blackout curtains and tinted the windows with what Gordon said was an automotive product, he said. It’s not clear why he did that. Gordon didn’t discuss it with Edwards, saying he didn’t think much of it at the time.

“I actually said to him, ‘I’m glad we have an agent here,'” Gordon said. “My wife and baby are home alone a lot.”

“Looking back, there are 100 things I could question,” he added.

Ryan Railsback, a spokesman for the Riverside Police Department, said Friday that detectives have not yet analyzed the items found in the home.

Gordon described Edwards as shy and said he mostly kept to himself, though he offered to help Gordon fix things around his nearby property. Since Edwards was new to the area, Gordon said, he once offered to have dinner with Edwards at a Chinese restaurant.

“He politely declined,” Gordon said.

Gordon said Edwards told him he moved to the area because he grew up in the area and wanted to return. Riverside police previously said Edwards was from North Chesterfield, several hours northeast of Saltville, near Richmond.

Attempts to reach Edwards’ relatives failed.

Gordon described Saltville as rural Appalachia, a place where credit cards can’t be used for gas stations and fast food franchises are virtually non-existent.

“When you come here, you travel back in time,” he said.

Authorities have not said when Edwards arrived in California or how he got there. The last time Gordon said he saw Edwards was Tuesday, November 22, three days before the Wineks were killed.

“He was supposed to be coming home from work early that day,” he said. “He packed his things in his car and left.”

Shreya Christinahttps://businesstraverse.com
Shreya has been with businesstraverse.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider businesstraverse.com team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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