'This Guy Stalked Me and Groomed Me When I Was a Child'

'LA Times' talks to woman who says she conversed for years as a young teen with Austin Edwards
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 9, 2023 9:04 AM CST
Before He Catfished One Teen, He Groomed Another
Austin Lee Edwards.   (Riverside Police Department via AP, File)

Austin Edwards is dead, as are three others he murdered in November in California after catfishing one victim's teen daughter. But his story has been revived once more, thanks to a woman now speaking out who says the former Virginia cop similarly groomed her, pressuring her to share nude photos of herself during a relationship that started when she was 13 and he was 20. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the now 21-year-old woman—whom the paper isn't identifying, as she was a child sex abuse victim—says she found out about the slayings carried out by Edwards while scrolling through Instagram, and that seeing his face again made her feel physically ill.

"This guy stalked me and groomed me when I was a child," she tells the paper, with whom she shared nearly 4,000 messages between herself and Edwards. The pair met in October 2014 on an online chat site, and although their conversations started off innocuously enough, within a day or so, the chats turned sexual, racist, and homophobic, the woman says. "YO WHAT THE F--- I SAID I WANTED T--S WAITING ON ME WHEN I GOT BACK," one of Edwards' notes to her read. The messages also show that it was clear he knew her age, with the Times noting he would wait for her to get home from school to video-chat.

The picture the woman paints of Edwards is one that shows his erraticism. Their conversations, which lasted for more than two years, showed how his "behavior changed dramatically from day to day and moment to moment," per the Times. Topics often included self-harm, suicide, and violence, including one chilling message in which he encouraged her to kill her mother. Edwards would also masturbate during their video chats and threaten to take his own life if she stopped talking to him, showing her his gun and knife collection and telling her he loved her. He repeatedly mentioned coming to visit her, noting during one conversation, "It doesn't even matter if you're 14 and not technically allowed to do sh-- yet."

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The correspondence between the woman and Edwards show she tried to cease contact with him in 2016, when she was 14—less than two weeks before he threatened to kill himself and his father, landing himself in a Virginia psychiatric facility and prompting questions on how he was ever hired by Virginia State Police. After she completely blocked him later that year, he tried contacting her multiple times on Facebook. "She felt scared: She had never told him her real name," the Times notes. In December 2020, she told him to never contact her again and blocked him on Facebook. Edwards applied to join the Virginia State Police just a few months later. Much more here. (More catfishing stories.)

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