According to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, Austin Lee Edwards, 28, a Virginia law enforcement officer committed suicide after being approached by deputies in the Mojave Desert following the killings.
Prior to leaving with the teenage girl on Friday, Austin Lee Edwards, is believed to have set fire to the family's Riverside house, according to the Riverside Police Department. In the desert hamlet of Needles, approximately 30 miles northwest of Riverside, deputies and Edwards engaged in gunfire until Edwards was fatally shot. Police have identified three victims that were killed by the man who was in an online relationship with the teen as Mark Winek, his wife Sharie Winek, and their 38-year-old daughter Brooke Winek.
Police have interviewed the 15-year-old girl that was being 'catfished' by the perpetrator and is currently in the care of Riverside County Child Protective Services.
At the press conference, Mychelle Blandin, Brooke Winek's sister, made an anguished appeal to parents to do their part to stop such tragedies.
“Please know your child’s online activity. Ask questions about what they’re doing and whom they are talking to. Anybody can say they’re someone else. And you could be in this situation, which I don’t want for the world. When you are talking to your children about the danger of their online actions, please use us as a reference. Tell our story to help your parenting. Not out of fear, but out of an example of something that did happen,” Blandin said.