The transient accused of killing a father at Malibu Creek State Park was indicted for murder by a Los Angeles County grand jury, moving the case against Anthony Rauda closer to trial.
The indictment was unsealed Tuesday during a hearing at the Criminal Courts Building in Downtown LA. It also charges Rauda, 43, with 10 counts of attempted murder and 5 counts of burglary.
The charges mirror the criminal case initially filed in January by the LA County District Attorney’s Office. It accused Rauda of firing the shot that killed 35-year-old Tristan Beaudette as he slept alongside his 2 daughters inside a tent at the park in June, 2018. The girls were not injured.
Prosecutors said Rauda was also responsible for a series of seemingly unrelated, random shootings that took place in the area of the park beginning in November, 2016, including 3 in 2017 in which vehicles were struck by gunfire. He was also accused of burglarizing several buildings in the area around the park, often stealing food but leaving valuables untouched.
Several law enforcement sources told NBC4 a key piece of evidence that led to the indictment was the comparison of bullets from the murder and some of the other shootings with the 9mm carbine Rauda was allegedly carrying when he was arrested in the Malibu wilderness by LA County Sheriff’s Department Major Crimes Bureau detectives.
Security video from one business appeared to show Rauda carrying a similar gun during a burglary in the weeks before his arrest on October 10, 2018. He was also carrying two loaded magazines for the gun and had a bag of ammunition, according to testimony at one pretrial hearing.
The sources said investigators believe Rauda is responsible for other shootings and burglaries for which not enough evidence was found for prosecution, including an unsolved shooting of a woman driving on Thousand Oaks Boulevard in Ventura County in 2010. They said Rauda is also suspected in other thefts and violence in LA, Ventura and Sonoma counties.
“It’s a 10-year crime spree that could make a Hollywood movie,” one detective familiar with the case who was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation told NBC4 last year.
After Rauda’s arrest the Sheriff’s Department opened an internal affairs investigation into the detectives at the Lost Hills Station in Agoura, according to Sheriff Alex Villanueva. The inquiry focused on whether or not the detective bureau at the station did enough to try to catch the mystery gunman before Beaudette was murdered and the case was turned-over to investigators from the Sheriff’s Homicide and Major Crimes Bureaus.
Law enforcement sources told NBC4 the former detective bureau lieutenant at Lost Hills, James Royal, was recently given a 30-day suspension as a result of the internal affairs investigation, and a detective sergeant, Tui Wright, was also served with a suspension notice. Wright immediately retired from the Sheriff’s Department and is considering filing a lawsuit, the sources said.
Royal took legal action months before he was disciplined. In a government claim filed earlier this year Royal said he was effectively demoted and transferred to a less desirable assignment further from his home.
He said he became the target of workplace retaliation after Beaudette’s widow filed a lawsuit that accused the County of failing to warn the public about the series of unsolved shootings.
“The…retaliatory actions against Claimant [Royal], including specifically the unwarranted transfer, IA investigation, and reputational harm, are designed to intimidate, control, and otherwise damage Claimant as a witness,” Royal’s claim said. “Because the Department believes that Claimant will testify in a future proceeding regarding his disclosures to supervisors as to the Department’s legal duty to warn the public.”
The Sheriff’s Department responded but would not discuss Royal’s allegations.
“Based on the nature of pending litigation and ongoing investigations, it would be inappropriate to comment at this time,” the department said.
Beaudette’s widow, Erica Wu, named the Sheriff’s Department, the California State Park Police, and other state and local agencies as defendants in her legal action in civil court and demanded at least $90-million in compensation for the murder.
The agencies ” … have confirmed they were aware of at least seven unsolved shootings in Malibu Creek State Park,” the claim said. “[The agencies] … negligently failed to care and provide a safe space for Beaudette and his children, instead causing his death.”
As to Wu’s claim the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said, “we reserve comment on pending litigation,” and the California State Parks department said it, “does not comment on potential or pending claims.”
Royal declined to comment through his attorney, who said Royal was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly because he’s still a County employee.
“He did everything he could,” said attorney Matthew McNicholas, but he explained Royal could not defy his superiors and give any information about the shootings directly to the public. McNicholas said he expected Royal would be an important witness in Wu’s litigation.
According to a timeline in Royal’s claim there had been 3 shootings in the park by January, 2017 and Royal asked for permission to notify the public, but he said Sheriff’s supervisors refused and told him it was a “State Park’s problem” and not theirs.
Four more shootings followed and Royal said he asked the Lost Hills Station captain, a division chief, and a commander for permission to make a public statement, and again, “the request was denied,” the claim said.