ABINGDON, Va. (WJHL) –The Washington County Virginia Board of Supervisors unanimously rejected a claim on Tuesday seeking damages for the victims of the accused “Catfish Killer.”
Former Washington County Virginia Sherriff’s employee Austin Lee Edwards is accused of killing the Winek’s in November 2022.
Relatives of Brooke, Mark and Sharie Winek filed a claim against the county for negligence, gross negligence, wrongful death and other damages.
County Attorney Lucy Phillips advised the supervisors to reject the family’s claims.
“There is no legal authority or evidence to assign to either the county or to the sheriff any responsibility for the actions of Austin Lee Edwards that occurred in the State of California, and entirely outside the scope of his employment with the county,” Phillips told the board.
The rejection came in part because the sheriff’s office hires and manages its own employees independently from the county government, according to Phillips.
“The county is a completely separate entity from the sheriff,” said Phillips. “There is no oversight, no control in that regard.”
The family is also pursuing legal action against the sheriff’s office. Washington County Sheriff Blake Andis confirmed the office has received an intent to sue from the family’s lawyer.
News Channel 11 reached out to Sheriff Andis for an interview on Tuesday but he declined that request.
Washington County, Virginia is now required to notify the family’s lawyers in writing that they’ve denied the claim seeking damages. Upon receipt of written notice, the family will have 30 days to file an appeal of the county’s decision.