LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A parolee was charged today with murdering a 35-year-old research scientist, who was shot while sleeping in a tent during a camping trip in Malibu Creek State Park with his two young children last June, and trying to kill another eight people in the area over a period of two years.
Anthony Rauda, 42, appeared in a Van Nuys courtroom in a wheelchair and bound by restraints, but did not enter a plea to one count of murder, 10 counts of attempted murder and five counts of second-degree burglary. If convicted as charged, the transient -- whose arraignment was postponed to Jan. 22 -- faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Rauda is accused of shooting Irvine resident Tristan Thomas Beaudette while the Allergan scientist was in a tent with his daughters about 4:45 a.m. last June 22. The girls, then 2 and 4 years old, were uninjured and are among the attempted murder victims in the complaint.
The defendant was arrested Oct. 10 after a series of large-scale manhunts in the area for a rifle-toting culprit suspected in multiple food heists in the Calabasas area. Deputies thought the burglaries might be linked to Beaudette's killing and Rauda was held without bail on suspicion of violating his parole.
Prosecutors allege the defendant's attacks date back to at least November 2016, when he's accused of wounding a man sleeping in a hammock in the area of the state park. Less than a week later, Rauda allegedly fired into the sleeping area of a parked vehicle.
Four days before Beaudette was killed by a single gunshot wound to the head, authorities allege Rauda shot at a Tesla on Las Virgenes Road.
He was carrying a rifle when he was arrested in a ravine about a mile- and-a-half north of Mulholland Highway west of Las Virgenes Road in the Malibu Canyon area, after deputies combing the area spotted fresh bootprints and tracked him down, according to the sheriff's department.
The arrest came amid a renewed search effort after an early morning burglary at the Agoura Hills/Calabasas Community Center, where someone smashed a vending machine and stole food. Investigators quickly linked the break-in to eight other burglaries over the past two years.
Authorities alleged Rauda was captured on surveillance video in one of those crimes carrying a rifle and wearing what deputies called “tactical gear.”
The suspect in all of the heists stole food, deputies said, suggesting the man was living off the grid in the wilderness, carrying out the burglaries when he needed sustenance.
On Oct. 2, sheriff's officials conducted a large-scale manhunt in the area, but failed to turn up a suspect. Some residents reported hearing gunfire that night.
Four days later, a maintenance worker in the Tapia Park area about a mile south of the Malibu Creek State Park campground “encountered a person who matched the description of the armed commercial burglar,” Sgt. Matthew Dunn of the Malibu/Lost Hills sheriff's station said then. Dunn said the man asked the park worker for a ride out of the canyon “because he said there were so many police in the area.”
Rauda was sentenced Dec. 13 to six months in jail for gun and ammunition violations, a sentence set to run consecutively with an earlier 160- day sentence for a probation violation, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
Rauda has seven prior convictions for weapons violations dating back to 2006, according to the criminal complaint. Then-Sheriff Jim McDonnell said at the time of Rauda's arrest that he also had a history of committing burglaries.
Investigators limited information on Beaudette's death, saying it could taint the investigation. The lack of answers to their questions led to confusion and rumors among locals, especially in Monte Nido, a neighborhood just southeast of the entrance of Malibu Creek State Park where some residents said they feared using the park's hiking trails.
“Along with my fellow councilmembers, I am very pleased to hear that a suspect has been arrested and charged in connection with the fatal shooting of Tristan Beaudette as well as other shootings at Malibu Creek State Park, adjacent to the City of Calabasas,” Calabasas Mayor David Shapiro tweeted.
“Our thoughts are with the family of Mr. Beaudette, and we applaud the efforts of our local law enforcement agencies. Detectives worked diligently to build a strong case before charging and arresting Anthony Rauda with overwhelming evidence that will aid in a conviction. We are hopeful that this brings a sense of relief to our community.”
The Sheriff's Department issued a statement this morning saying that investigators believe Rauda acted alone.
“No similar crimes have been reported in the area since (his arrest),” according to the department.
At a July news conference announcing $30,000 in reward money provided by Beaudette's employer and others for tips about his death, his widow described her husband as a “devoted husband and father whose life revolved around” his family.
“We met when we were teenagers, grew up together, married, and had two amazing and beautiful daughters,” Erica Wu said. “In everything that he did, Tristan was kind, selfless, and giving, and had a natural ability to connect with just about anyone. We supported each other as we pursued our careers while balancing what truly mattered most -- spending time with our girls and living life to the fullest. I may never understand why our time together was cut short, but we had an incredible journey and I am so grateful for every day I had with him.”
Wu, who was studying for an exam and didn't make the camping trip, said Beaudette “rejoiced in sharing his love for the outdoors with the girls and believed that campgrounds were the definition of a sanctuary where people could feel safe and secure.”