Whistleblower claims Virginia State Police knew Edwards' mental health history: 'People are upset'

Posted at 5:01 PM, Dec 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-16 14:51:10-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- The former Virginia State Police Trooper who police said traveled to California in November 2022 to kill three family members of a 15-year-old girl he tried to sexually extort online had voluntarily checked himself into a mental health facility in 2016, according to Austin Edwards' state police polygraph result.

The polygraph was conducted as part of Edwards' hiring process in 2021.

Corinne Geller, a Virginia State Police (VSP) spokesperson, previously said that at no time during the background check done on Edwards, were there any indicators of concern. She also said Edwards never disclosed any incidents that would have disqualified him from employment with the VSP.

"The applicant stated in the pre-test interview that he had voluntarily checked into a mental health facility in 2016," the examiner wrote in the polygraph results the CBS 6 Problem Solvers obtained from Jeff Pike.

Pike worked in law enforcement before becoming a private investigator at Complete Surveillance and Investigative Services in Wytheville, Virginia.

"The reason I have the information I have is because there are still good people who are upset over this," Pike said.

Pike said he confirmed the document's validity with multiple law enforcement sources.

The Los Angeles Times, which first reported the story, also said it confirmed the documents' legitimacy through sources.

Crime Insider sources also told the CBS 6 Problem Solvers that the document looked legitimate.

Pike said an admission of a voluntary visit to a mental health facility should have warranted further VSP investigation.

While the CBS 6 Problems Solvers don't know if VSP investigated further, what is known is that officers in Abingdon, Virginia placed Edwards in a mental health hospital in 2016 after he threatened to kill himself and his father.

"I don't know of any officer, a new hire, that had the type of incident in their life that would be hired unless they had some type of inside pull," Pike said.

The CBS 6 Problem Solvers reached out to Geller on Wednesday via email, phone, and text to ask if the document was legitimate. The Problem Solvers also asked why Geller originally said there were no indicators of concern during Edwards' hiring process. The Problem Solvers are awaiting a response to those questions.

Last week, Geller said VSP determined a human error resulted in an incomplete database query during Edwards' hiring process.

"This is a very serious matter, this isn't just a minor mistake," Pike said. "What supervisor approved this? Who in HR approved this? You would hope there are multiple levels of discussion and review of applicants."

Governor Glenn Youngkin, who appoints the head of the state police, said he has requested a full investigation on what went wrong, but said he believes it involved human error.

"Once the investigation is completed, there will be full transparency," Youngkin said.

Austin Lee Edwards, 28, drove across the country and on November 25 killed the girl's mother and grandparents and set fire to their home in Riverside, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of downtown Los Angeles, authorities said.

That same day, Edwards died by suicide during a shootout with San Bernardino sheriff’s deputies. The teenage girl was rescued.

Edwards was hired by the Virginia State Police and entered the police academy on July 6, 2021, according to Virginia State Police. He graduated as a trooper on Jan. 21, 2022, and was assigned to Henrico County within the agency’s Richmond Division until his resignation on Oct. 28. He was later hired as a sheriff's deputy in Washington County, Virginia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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