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The policeman and the kidnapping: the murder that brought back to consciousness the dangers lurking for children on the Internet - voila! technology

2022-12-04T12:45:18.551Z

Online impersonation: on November 25, Austin Lee Edwards, a police officer from Virginia, arrived in California, murdered three people and went on a short trip with a 15-year-old girl that ended in his death



Traveled almost 4,000 km to commit murder. Austin Lee Edwards (Photo: Riverside Police)

On July 6, 2021, Austin Lee Edwards was accepted into the Virginia State Police Academy.

In January 2022, he finished the course and started working in Richmond, the capital of the state located on the east coast of the USA. This affair lasted only nine months, and on October 28 Austin decided to leave the district. About two weeks later, on November 16, he transferred to the sheriff's office in the district Washington, also in Virginia.



So far, a routine and not very interesting biography about the life of a young police officer, 28 years old, who takes his first steps as a law enforcement officer, but in the shadow of these job exchanges something much less routine happened with Edwards. Last Friday, After murdering three people, burning down their California home and forcing a 15-year-old girl into his car, he ended his life at the end of a dramatic chase.

The story begins several weeks before, in a series of internet chats with the same girl.

As happens a lot on the Internet, teenagers don't always know who is talking to them on the other side of the screen.

Edwards pretended to be a completely different character, a 17-year-old boy, when the young woman she communicated with did not know his real name and age.

He managed to extract her identity and address from her.

At this point, it must be remembered, he was still about 4,000 km away from her - he is in Washington and she is in California, but when you are a murderous predator, distance matters less to you. Edwards drove west and arrived in Riverside, a city located a few tens of kilometers south of Los Angeles.



According to the testimony of one of the neighbors, Edwards harassed the girl and her family members in the days before the murder - her 69-year-old grandfather Mark Weink, her 65-year-old grandmother Sherry, her 38-year-old mother Brooke and the girl's sister.

"There was a suspicious red car driving around here. I think it was him," Sergio Gutierrez told the British Daily Mail.

Last Friday, Black Friday, Edwards decided it was time for him to break into the house. He broke into the house, murdered the three and set the property on fire, not before taking the girl and pushing her into the car - a red Kia Soul, the one that the neighbor Gutierrez had probably seen before. Mark, Sherry and Brooke were no longer alive when the fire started.



Here began the second part of Edwards' "operation" - the escape from the arena.

Unfortunately for him, a fire is something that is not easy to hide, and neighbors who saw the house on fire rushed to call the police.

The vehicle was located and the vehicles began a chase, during which the girl managed to escape.

Edwards' Kia was pulled off the road, he got out of it and started shooting at the police.

During the exchange of fire he was killed.

The police, by the way, do not call the incident in which the girl got into the car a "kidnapping", but the semantics in this case are less than a year old.

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Grandfather Mark Weink (photo: Mark Weink's Facebook page)

Is Brock Weinke (Photo: Brock Weinke's Facebook page)

The investigation is still young and full of holes.

It is not yet clear what exactly led Edwards to murder the three family members, nor how he committed the murders.

One thing did return to the headlines - the danger of the "catfish", impersonation on the net.



Every few years a story breaks out that ends in murder.

In 2001, a 13-year-old girl named Alicia Kozkiewicz was convinced that the other party was a boy and went to meet him in Pennsylvania.

The 38-year-old Scott Tyree captured, imprisoned, tortured and raped her, all while streaming, which was not as developed then as it is today, but it already existed.

He was tracked down by the FBI and Kozkiewicz was released and today she lectures on the dangers of the Internet.



In the same year, a shocking and familiar case was recorded in Israel.

Ofir Rahum, a 16-year-old boy from Ashkelon, chatted on ICQ with Sally, a new immigrant from Morocco.

She convinced him to come to Jerusalem, he got into her car and the two continued to Ramallah.

Sally was, as we know, Amana Mona, a Christian Arab active in the Tanzim organization.

She led Rahum to his murder by an armed squad and was released from prison in 2011 as part of the Gilad Shalit deal.

Since then similar cases on such a scale have not been seen in Israel, but the Americans receive a painful reminder of the catfish phenomenon every few years, and the case of the Edwards murders has put it back on the agenda.

This impersonation is not always fatal and takes lives - more than once it leads (as the program "The Imposters" with us also showed) to scams.

In 2020, 23 thousand cases of impersonation were recorded in the United States.

The scope of the financial frauds was more than NIS 600 million.



As long as it ends in money, fine, but more than once it comes to threats, extortion, mainly on a sexual basis, and finally also to death - and not necessarily as physically caused by someone else.



February 2022. 17-year-old Ryan Last, an honor student, received a message from a young girl.

Hours later he was no longer among the living.

"Someone approached him," said his mother Pauline Stewart, "sent him nude photos and asked him to take intimate photos of himself and send them to her."

Immediately after doing so, the cybercriminal who was "the girl" demanded $5,000 from him immediately or he would distribute the photographs to Ryan's family and friends.

The amount eventually dropped to just $150, but after Ryan paid the extortionist demanded more.

At two in the morning the boy was found dead in his room.

His suicide is just a comma from the total number of cases of sextortion, extortion on sexual grounds, about which 18 thousand complaints alone were registered last year in the USA.

As in many cases involving murder, here too Edwards' personality was not really deciphered before the shocking incident.

His friends at the Virginia Police Department did not notice anything unusual in his behavior.

Internet predictors do not have a uniform face and it is difficult to track them ahead of time.

Some are extroverted and suspicious, others are your quiet neighbors next door.

The fact that Edwards was a police officer is mostly what is indigestible in this case.



"Parents, you should monitor your children's activity online," said Michelle Blandin, daughter of Mark and Sherry Weinke and Brooke's sister, at a press conference she held yesterday (Thursday), "ask where they go and who they talk to. Edwards swore to protect and instead went to prey the weak."

  • technology

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  • murder

  • kidnapping

  • Impersonation

Source: walla

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