Catfish Cop Lawsuit: Riverside Family Sues Virginia Sheriff’s Office for Tragic Hiring Decision

RIVERSIDE, California – Relatives of a family in Riverside, California, who were tragically killed nearly a year ago by a man they had trusted, filed a lawsuit on Thursday against the Virginia sheriff’s office that had employed him. The lawsuit comes after Austin Lee Edwards, a former Virginia state trooper and Washington County deputy, killed three members of the Winek family and kidnapped their teen daughter, whom he had deceived through online conversations.

The tragic events unfolded on the morning of November 25, when Edwards set fire to the Winek family’s home in Riverside, taking the life of Mark Winek, 69; Sharie Winek, 65; and their daughter, Brooke Winek, 38. He then kidnapped Brooke’s 15-year-old daughter and drove into the Mojave Desert. The 28-year-old deputy died in a confrontation with law enforcement, leaving the girl physically unharmed but traumatized.

In response to these devastating events, the family’s aunt, Mychelle Blandin, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Central California, seeking damages and holding the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Edwards’ estate accountable for violations of the 4th Amendment, as well as negligent hiring, supervision, and retention. The lawsuit also seeks unspecified financial compensation on behalf of the surviving daughter and her younger sister.

This lawsuit sheds light on the tragic consequences of online deception and the profound impact it can have on families and communities. The devastating loss of the Winek family has prompted legal action to ensure accountability and prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.

In summary, the lawsuit seeks justice and compensation for the loss and trauma inflicted upon the Winek family, as well as holding the Washington County Sheriff’s Office accountable for the hiring and supervision of the deputy responsible for this tragic event. The legal action serves as a reminder of the devastating consequences of online deception and the vital importance of ensuring public safety and trust in law enforcement.