ABINGDON, Va. (WJHL) – A deceased former Virginia State Police (VSP) trooper accused of murdering a teenage girl’s family before kidnapping her was previously held in custody over suicidal and homicidal threats, records show.
According to a police report obtained by News Channel 11, Abingdon Police Department officers were dispatched to the Nicholas Street home of then-21-year-old Austin Lee Edwards early in the morning of Feb. 8, 2016, after his father found him in the bathroom with a self-inflicted injury. Edwards’ father told police he had to use a screwdriver to enter the room, and he saw his son sit down in the room and begin playing with a folding knife.
When officers arrived at the scene, they reportedly found large amounts of blood scattered inside the home coming from a cut on Edwards’ left hand. When police found Edwards, he was reportedly being held down by his father and resisting medical help.
Edwards reportedly tried to bite his father and responding officers as EMTs tried to treat his hand. In order to transport and treat him, the report said Edwards was handcuffed and placed on a stretcher. While handcuffed, Edwards reportedly told officers that he “wanted to die, that he would try to kill himself the instant he was free from restraints and that he would kill his father.”
Edwards’ father told officers that he had no idea why the 21-year-old would harm himself but speculated that the incident may have started because of “trouble about a relationship with a girlfriend.”
Due to the alleged threats Edwards made to himself and others, officers detained him under an emergency custody order at Johnston Memorial Hospital. According to Virginia code, an emergency custody order is granted by local magistrates and used to hold patients until a professional can determine if they qualify for a longer-lasting temporary detention order (TDO) to prevent serious harm to themselves or others. According to court records, a TDO was granted against Edwards and he was remitted to psychiatric care at Ridgeview Pavilion Inpatient Behavioral Health Clinic against his will.
Edwards was hired by VSP five years later and served in Henrico County, Virginia until October 2022. The former trooper was in the process of joining the Washington County, Virginia Sheriff’s Office but is now accused of posing as a minor online before driving across the country to kill a family and kidnap a teenage girl.
According to property records, Edwards purchased a Saltville, Virginia home on Nov. 14. That home’s windows were covered in black plastic to prevent anyone from seeing inside. Two weeks later, Edwards allegedly killed three people and burned down their home before taking his own life during a police standoff.
VSP Public Relations Director Corinne Geller told News Channel 11 that Edwards did not disclose the incident to hiring staff and that the agency is conducting a review of his hiring process. VSP officials have yet to provide statements on whether past TDOs factor into recruitment and whether protocols are in place to find them.
News Channel 11 has reached out to VSP for additional details surrounding Edwards’ hiring process. Geller said a statement can be expected Wednesday afternoon.