The Los Angeles County Sheriff confirmed Wednesday evening that detectives arrested a man earlier in the day suspected of a string of burglaries that have rocked the upper Malibu Canyon area in recent months.
Sheriff Jim McDonnell said after several hours searching the hills, detectives with the Major Crimes Bureau arrested Anthony Rauda, 42, on suspicion of burglary. Rauda has a history of weapons and burglary charges and was also booked at the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station for felony parole violation, McDonnell said.
Rauda may have been living in the Malibu Canyon wilderness and used the burglaries to obtain food. He was armed with a rifle at the time of his arrest, but investigators said they did not have immediate evidence to link him to multiple reports of gunfire in the area.
“We will continue the vigilance that we been conducting up to this point, we will not back away from that (investigation) until we can follow it further to be able to rule out that there were any additional suspects involved, or that this suspect is not the one tied to some of the other activity,” McDonnell said.
The sheriff said homicide detectives also are working with investigators to determine if Rauda might be responsible for the June 22 murder of Tristan Beaudette.
Rauda is suspected of robbing the Agoura Hills/Calabasas Community Center early Tuesday morning, as well as seven other burglaries over the last two years.
He reportedly used a rock to break the glass front door of the Community Center at 27040 Malibu Hills Road around 3 a.m. Oct. 9. He then broke into a vending machine inside the building and stole food.
“The community center continues to be open. We were open for business today, everything was business as usual and the community center will continue to create safeguards to protect against it happening again,” said Annemarie Flaherty, the community center’s executive director.
The center was also burglarized in July, the front door again smashed with a rock.
Tuesday’s break-in comes on the heels of a Sept. 30 burglary that prompted a pair of manhunts in the hills around Malibu Creek State Park.
Deputies conducted a search on Oct. 2 after a thief was seen on video stealing food from a business in the 26800 block of Mulholland Highway just two days earlier.
A report of suspicious behavior on Oct. 6 prompted a second search. In both instances, deputies from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station worked alongside members of the sheriff department’s Special Enforcement Bureau to locate the person.
At the time, the sheriff didn’t comment on whether the same person was the target of both searches, but a statement issued Tuesday evening said the same person is “possibly involved” in eight burglaries in total, most of which have occurred in the last three months, but some reach as far back as 2016.
Few details have been released about the crimes, but similarities suggest there is a connection.
Several locations have been struck multiple times—the office in the 26800 block of Mulholland Highway was burglarized on March 8, 2017, and a business in the 700 block of Malibu Canyon road was targeted twice, on Sept. 24 and Oct. 4 of this year.
“It’s the same MO, same guy, and he’s desperate for food,” said Brian Boudreau, owner the Malibu Valley Farms equestrian ranch on Mulholland Highway whose offices were broken into twice this year.
The sheriff didn’t comment on whether the same person might also be connected to more than a dozen reports of gunfire at the park over the past two years. There has been no evidence to suggest a direct connection, but some locals see parallels between the timeline of the burglaries and reports of gunfire.
Officials also declined to comment on a possible link to the murder of the 35-year-old Beaudette, who was shot and killed in his tent at the Malibu Creek State Park campground on June 22.
A statement from the sheriff’s department said “recent events in the general area” prompted the searches.
“The (burglar) did have a gun, that’s what heightened our security measures,” Lost Hills Capt. Josh Thai said. “(On Sat., Oct. 6) we don’t even know whether this person is somebody that we wanted, but he was suspicious. It could be related to the Sept. 30 burglary incident, it could not. A gun was not seen on Saturday though.”
The search started in the afternoon and continued into the evening before darkness fell. Dozens of deputies combed the hillsides, aided by dogs and helicopters.
During the search, a Tapia Park maintenance worker encountered a man near the Malibu Creek campground who asked for a ride out of the canyon as law enforcement conducted their sweep, a sheriff’s spokesperson said. The worker left and called deputies.
A spokesperson said the person captured on video is suspected of burglarizing the Tapia Water Treatment Facility in the 700 block of Malibu Canyon Road.
The search operations are the latest in a series of events that have led to jangled nerves throughout the Malibu Canyon region.
Residents have been wary of hiking or camping in the area since summer started. In May, a dead body was found in a drainage ditch on Las Virgenes Road, near the Hindu Temple. A second body was found in Piuma Canyon on July 27.
In the wake of Beaudette’s murder in June, the sheriff’s said there have been eight confirmed reports of gunfire in the Malibu Creek State Park area over the last two years. In several instances, cars driving on Las Virgenes Road were shot at. One incident in 2016 sent a man to the hospital with birdshot in his arm.
The most recent confirmed report of gunfire came just days before Beaudette was killed. Since his death, the sheriff has received numerous reports of gunfire, none of which have been confirmed.