Friends: 'Catfishing' Cop Had Girlfriend in California

They say Austin Edwards visited her while in the state in November
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2022 12:30 PM CST
Friends: 'Catfishing' Cop First Visited Girlfriend in California
This photo provided by the Riverside Police Department shows Austin Lee Edwards, the suspect in a triple homicide in Southern California who died in a shootout with police Friday, Nov. 25, 2022.   (Riverside Police Department via AP, File)

Another point on the timeline has emerged in the case of the former Virginia trooper who police say catfished a California teen and killed three of her family members. Two friends of Austin Edwards, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after police closed in on him and the girl, spoke to NBC News, and what they had to say only "deepens" the mystery, per the network. The friends say Edwards, 28, had been in a long-running relationship with a woman he met online, and that he visited her in California prior to heading to Riverside, California, where police say he killed the teen's single mother and grandparents.

The girlfriend was reportedly a couple years younger than him, and one of Edwards' friends, Tommy Gates, says it was Edwards' "first visit to meet" her, as NBC puts it. Edwards "decided to up and go see her since he had just enough time to drive there and back before he had to work the following Monday," said a second unidentified friend who noted Edwards had time off for Thanksgiving. A two-bedroom home that Edwards had bought in Saltville, Virginia, earlier that month was supposed to be for the two of them to live in, Gates says, adding that he once was present while Edwards spoke to the girlfriend on speakerphone and says the two had discussed the move in their conversation.

He didn't know where in California the woman lived, but said it wasn't Riverside. The unnamed friend says he texted with the girlfriend, who said the trip was "spontaneous" and that it was a good visit. "Nothing was unusual to her about his mannerisms or anything like that," he said. A rep for the Riverside Police Department had no comment. But a rep for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department did offer one unrelated detail in a Saturday statement, per the AP: Detectives have determined the gun Edwards used to kill himself was a department-issued semi-automatic service pistol. Edwards reportedly posed as a 17-year-old boy while talking online with the 15-year-old girl. Authorities say she cut off communication with him after he asked her to send him nude photos of herself. (More catfishing stories.)

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