Mountain man on the run

Major crimes a hallmark of 2018


The November mass shooting in Thousand Oaks capped a year in which residents endured a multitude of crimes not normally associated with the region.

Locals were shocked to learn June 22 that an Irvine father of two had been the victim of a murder at Malibu Creek State Park campground. Tristan Beaudette, 35, was sleeping in a tent with his daughters, ages 2 and 4, when he was shot and killed in the early morning hours.

In the following weeks, numerous people came forward with reports of other gunshots heard in the upper Malibu Canyon area. Investigators with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced at a community meeting in August that they had received eight confirmed reports of gunfire stretching back to 2016. After Beaudette’s killing, there were more reports of gunfire, none of which were confirmed.

Three suspicious deaths in Malibu Canyon preceded his.

One body was found in a drainage ditch near the Hindu Temple on Malibu Canyon Road in May. A second body was discovered in Piuma Canyon in August. It was later announced by the sheriff’s department that those bodies had been dumped by Los Angeles street gangs. Skeletal remains discovered on a Calabasas trailhead in September were determined to not be the result of a homicide.

CAUTION—The Malibu Creek State Park campground was closed to the public following Beaudette’s murder. Acornfile photo

CAUTION—The Malibu Creek State Park campground was closed to the public following Beaudette’s murder. Acorn file photo

Burglar on the loose

A string of burglaries in the Malibu Canyon area made headlines in September and October. Sheriff’s deputies believed the crimes were related to other burglaries in the area dating back to 2016.

Security footage from a Sept. 30 burglary showed a man with face covered and armed with a rifle breaking into a business, prompting deputies to search the Santa Monica Mountains three times looking for the culprit, who was believed to be living in the hills.

The third search ended with the arrest of 42-year-old Anthony Rauda by a creek near Mulholland Highway.

Rauda, who has been imprisoned on weapons and burglary charges, had a rifle in his possession when he surrendered to deputies, officers said.

The sheriff conducted further searches of the hills, looking for evidence to link Rauda to other crimes.

He was sentenced to 340 days in prison for violating his parole and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. He will likely serve less than his full sentence due to earning time off for good behavior.

Lewd and lascivious

The year was also remembered for a rash of sex crimes that made headlines.

An Agoura Hills day care owner, Paul Lopez, was arrested in March and charged with lewd and lascivious acts on a minor and penetration with a foreign object on a minor. Lopez, 72, was later released on $100,000 bail. He pleaded not guilty to all charges and will appear in court Jan. 7 for a pretrial conference.

Jeff Cooper, a Calabasas resident and former city official, was arrested in June and charged with eight counts of child molestation. He posted $500,000 bail and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

A 44-year-old attorney for a Westlake Village business, Jason Lavender, was arrested in August and charged with six counts of child molestation. Lavender, a Thousand Oaks resident, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year in jail and five years’ probation. His name will be placed in the sex offender registry.

Agoura Hills resident, Neil Kimball, a sex crimes investigator with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, was arrested in November and charged with tying up and raping a 14-year-old girl as well as intimidating her so she would not report the crime.

Kimball pleaded not guilty to the charges and will appear in Ventura County Superior Court on Jan. 17.

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