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Relatives of Riverside family slain by ‘catfish’ cop will sue

Attorneys for relatives of the Riverside family slain by “catfish” cop Austin Lee Edwards have notified Virginia officials of their intent to sue, citing gross negligence by the state and local law enforcement agencies that hired him.

Edwards killed Sharie Winek, 65, Mark Winek, 69, and Brooke Winek, 38, in their Riverside home on the morning of Nov. 25 and kidnapped Brooke’s then-15-year-old daughter. Police have said that Edwards, 28, “catfished” the girl online, telling her that he was 17.

Edwards, a former Virginia state trooper then employed by the Washington County, Va., sheriff’s office, drove into the Mojave Desert, where he died in a confrontation with authorities. Police initially said he was killed in the shootout but later said he died of a self-inflicted gunshot with his service weapon. The girl was found physically uninjured.

Virginia law requires parties who intend to sue state and local agencies to send notice before filing suit in court.

Virginia-based attorneys who represent the kidnapped teen notified Washington County in March of their intent to sue. California-based attorneys for the teen’s younger sibling and aunt, who is the younger child’s guardian, notified Virginia officials on Wednesday that they also plan to file a lawsuit.

The California attorneys’ notices allege that Edwards’ employers demonstrated negligence; gross negligence; negligent and gross negligent hiring, supervision and retention; breach of mandatory duties and other violations of Virginia state law. The California attorneys’ notices argue that the family’s damages exceed $100 million.

Virginia-based attorney Scott Perry, who represents the teenage girl, sent a separate notice to Washington County in March. That notice also alleges negligence on the part of the sheriff’s office, which employed Edwards until his death.

Washington County’s Board of Supervisors is scheduled to meet on May 23 to discuss the matter.

This story originally appeared on LA Times

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