WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Newly obtained employment records on the lone suspect in a cross-country triple murder case have revealed that former Virginia State Police (VSP) trooper and recent Washington County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) hire listed his father, a close friend and a VSP field training officer on his application for employment with the latter law enforcement agency.

Austin Edwards, 28, of North Chesterfield was named by police in Riverside, Calif. as the man responsible for the murders of three members of the Winek family the day after Thanksgiving. An investigation later revealed that Edwards had reportedly engaged in a deceptive relationship with a 15-year-old girl in the family, known as “catfishing.” Authorities said that he traveled from Virginia to California, killing the girl’s mother and grandparents, before setting their home on fire to cover up the crimes and driving off with the teen. According to the San Bernardino County Coroner’s Office, Edwards died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound during a shootout with deputies there, using his WCSO service weapon to do so.

On Dec. 1, 8News submitted a legal information request to the WCSO for Edwards’ employment records. He started working for the department less than three weeks after a brief, nine-month stint with VSP, and just days before authorities said he committed these murders. That request for information was denied.

However, after a recent report cited Edwards’ Sept. 2022 application for employment with the sheriff’s office, 8News reached back out to the agency to press for fulfillment of the request. The documents were sent to 8News Wednesday evening.

“Personnel information concerning identifiable individuals is excluded from the mandatory disclosure, except records of the name, position, job classification, official salary, or rate of pay of, and records of the allowance or reimbursements for expenses paid to, any officer, official, or employee of a public body,” Washington County Sheriff Blake Andis wrote in the response to 8News’ information request. “However, due to the circumstances associated with the request, we are electing to provide information that would normally not be released.”

The employment application, dated Sept. 8, 2022, noted that Edwards attended Richlands High School and then completed one year at Virginia Highlands Community College.

Under his job duties for VSP, Edwards listed the following: “Patrol the interstate, answer calls, enforce laws, crash reports, general highway safety.” He also noted that he left the agency to “start this job closer to home.”

That sentiment was echoed in the character statement from the VSP field training officer, who wrote that Edwards had been “very happy with his job at the Virginia State Police” and “generally loves what he does.” The officer went on to write that Edwards’ only complaint while working for VSP was the distance from his family.

“He was so happy to have gotten himself a job where he could make a difference,” Edwards’ father wrote. “They made him station way out in Richmond, which he was fine with, but I am glad he’s applying somewhere closer to home, less dangerous out here anyway.”

As 8News previously reported, Edwards’ father was also named in a 2016 police report out of Washington County, detailing a violent incident during which Edwards harmed himself and police and EMTs were called. In the presence of Abingdon Police, the report noted that Edwards, who was eventually handcuffed, threatened to kill himself and his father once freed.

On Dec. 16, the Office of the State Inspector General released a statement that it had received a request to review a recent VSP matter. That request came from Governor Glenn Youngkin in reference to VSP’s hiring of Edwards.