The California cop who killed three people’s coworkers stole from his home before the official search.
An eyewitness and The Times’ footage showed Austin Lee Edwards’ coworkers taking a sheriff’s truck and a black garbage bag from his property the night before the search. Edwards killed the mother and grandparents of a 15-year-old girl he “catfished” online.
Read Also: Nashville Dad Ends Up with Only $1 in His EBT Card After Snap Benefit Scam
Two Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputies, where Edwards worked until his death, went to the white Cape Cod-style residence with blacked-out windows late on November 25, the day of the killings.
Riverside police, who investigated the homicide, did not know what the Washington County Sheriff’s deputies did.
Police spokesperson Ryan Railsback said they don’t know of anything that happened at his house before the search warrant on November 26. There were no other known searches.
Railsback said the Smyth County (Virginia) Sheriff’s Office issued the house’s search warrant.
Legal experts believe there are a few good reasons for law enforcement officials from a different county to enter a property before an official search.
This is weird at the onset, said Yancey Ellis, a partner at Alexandria, Virginia’s Carmichael, Ellis & Brock criminal defense firm. That’s because Washington County doesn’t have the jurisdiction to do anything in Smyth County. They ought to contact the local police for out-of-county matters.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office, where Edwards, 28, began working as a patrol deputy on November 16, and the Smyth County commonwealth’s attorney declined to comment.
The LA Times reports that on November 25, the same day of the Riverside shootings, deputies visited Edwards’ Saltville, Va., house. They didn’t see the deputies go inside, but they saw them come from the back of the house with a garbage bag and leave with a stolen car.
Two people stand by the house in the 42-second footage. One has a flashlight and a black trash bag. They leave.
An eyewitness said the two deputies went separately in a patrol car and a Washington County Sheriff’s Office truck lying in Edwards’ driveway for days.
Two former Virginia law enforcement officers who knew about the case and watched the video confirmed that they knew both people in it as Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
The Times anonymized the witnesses and former officers because they feared repercussions.
Ellis said officers could enter a property without a warrant if someone is in danger or could destroy evidence. Since Saltville was outside Washington County, none of these instances applied.
Washington, D.C., criminal lawyer David Benowitz said Washington County police couldn’t take anything from home without Smyth County’s help, even if they didn’t enter the residence.
He said the Washington County Sheriff’s Office may have had a contract with the officer that said, ‘If we terminate you for cause, we can get the car back,’ but since it’s a crime scene, that wouldn’t have mattered.
Benowitz added that searching for Edwards was pointless since he was deceased.
“This stinks,” he added. “There aren’t many good or legal justifications for that.”
In November, Edwards drove across the nation to her Riverside home, where he killed three family members, set the house on fire, and seized the 15-year-old girl.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department announced last week that Edwards killed himself with a revolver after deputies stopped his automobile.
On July 6, 2021, Edwards joined the Virginia State Police Academy. He graduated on January 21, 2022. He was then assigned to Henrico County in Richmond.
On Wednesday, the Virginia State Police told The Times that Edwards was hired due to a “human error” in background checks.
Read Also: Olive Garden Fires Manager for Starting Absurd Policy: ‘If your dog died, you need to bring him in and prove it.’