'Malibu Sniper' convicted of murder and attempted murder in 2018 campground shootings

CALABASAS, CALIFORNIA--OCT. 17, 2018--Members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department, including the mounted enforcement detail, search Malibu Creek State Park in connection to the arrest of 42-year-old Anthony Rouda, who was captured in the same area on Oct. 10, 2018. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles County sheriff's officials search Malibu Creek State Park in 2018 in connection with Anthony Rauda's arrest in the area. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

The man accused of stalking an idyllic Malibu park, peppering motorists and campers with gunfire in a series of attacks that ended in the shooting death of a father of two, was convicted Friday of murder and three counts of attempted murder.

Anthony Rauda, 46, will almost certainly spend the rest of his life in prison after jurors convicted him of gunning down 35-year-old pharmaceutical scientist Tristan Beaudette, who was killed in June 2018 while he was inside a tent he was sharing with his daughters.

Rauda was also convicted of multiple burglaries and three counts of attempted murder: two counts related to opening fire in the direction of Beaudette's daughters and a third related to shooting Ian Kincaid just days before as Kincaid was driving by in a Tesla.

Rauda was charged with 10 counts of attempted murder in January 2019, but the jury acquitted him Friday of seven of those counts. In many of those incidents, Rauda was accused of attacking in pre-dawn hours from a distance, and prosecutors did not have ballistic evidence or eyewitnesses linking him to those shootings.

A close-up photo of a man with slicked-back hair, a moustache and a goatee.
Anthony Rauda, seen in a 2016 photo from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, will be sentenced at a later date. (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

Los Angeles County sheriff's investigators tried to trace Rauda's movements through his use of the park's public wireless networks, but defense attorney Nicholas Okorocha repeatedly noted in his closing arguments that detectives had not come close to pinpointing his location at the time of most of the shootings.

In brief remarks outside the courtroom, Okorocha thanked the jurors for being "careful."

Rauda refused to appear in court for any portion of the trial. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Eleanor Hunter asked him during a brief appearance earlier this week whether he wanted to be present for the reading of the verdict. Rauda grumbled that even being wheeled into the courtroom was "punishment," and asked to leave.

The defendant's face was covered in a spit mask at that appearance. He has already been convicted of punching a sheriff's deputy in a courtroom and attacking another with a pencil at Men's Central Jail since his arrest in late 2018. He must appear in court for his June 7 sentencing.

During the trial, L.A. County Deputy Dist. Atty. Antonella Nistorescu repeatedly described Rauda as a menacing and calculating presence who engaged in a “pattern of stalking and preying upon campers.”

Beaudette was sleeping in the campground off Las Virgenes Road with his young daughters, just 4 and 2 years old, when he was shot in the head. Prosecutors repeatedly showed jurors gruesome images of Beaudette's head wound and of his daughters' pants, covered in their father's blood.

When Rauda was arrested months later in connection with a string of burglaries, he was carrying a rifle that was later matched to Beaudette's murder through ballistic testing, Nistorescu said.

The scientist was the last of 11 people Rauda was accused of shooting at over the course of two years. In several instances, Rauda shot at moving vehicles or at campers in hammocks, wounding people on more than one occasion, prosecutors said.

Most of the early attacks involved the use of what prosecutors described as an "improvised shotgun" filled with pellets that did not cause anyone life-threatening injuries. Nistorescu said Rauda at some point upgraded to a sawed-off rifle, the weapon used in each of the counts he was convicted of Friday.

Prosecutors said that even when Rauda shot at moving vehicles, he was trying to kill his targets in creative ways. Los Angeles County sheriff's detectives reviewed his use of campground wireless networks during their investigation and found that he'd repeatedly searched for troubling phrases such as “bullet hits car gas tank.”

“He’s actively trying to do something that you know would cause death when he researches how to blow up a car by shooting out a gas tank, and then you see that he shoots at a BMW," Nistorescu said in her closing arguments.

While reports of shootings in the area had been rattling Malibu residents for months, the incidents didn't gain media attention or intense scrutiny until Beaudette's slaying. Then-Sheriff Jim McDonnell faced intense criticism for not warning residents sooner that there may be a gunman at large.

Rauda was also convicted of breaking into commercial buildings owned by the Las Virgenes Water District, Spectrum Building Development and the Agoura Hills/Calabasas Community Center five times between July and October of 2018. During several of those burglaries, he was caught on video carrying the rifle used to kill Beaudette.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.