LOS ANGELES—A man convicted of fatally shooting a research scientist as he slept inside a tent with his two young daughters in Malibu Creek State Park in what the judge called a “cold-blooded” crime was sentenced Wednesday to 119 years to life in prison.
Anthony Rauda, 46, was brought into a downtown Los Angeles courtroom in a restraint chair and wearing a spit-hood over his head—the result of two earlier attacks on sheriff’s deputies while he’s been in custody.
He was convicted May 26 of second-degree murder for the June 22, 2018, killing of Tristan Beaudette as the victim camped with his daughters.
Jurors also found Rauda guilty of three counts of attempted murder, including two involving Beaudette’s daughters, who were not struck by the gunfire, along with five counts of second-degree commercial burglary.
Jurors acquitted Rauda of seven other attempted murder charges involving a series of other early morning shootings in the same area.
In court Wednesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Eleanor Hunter initially handed down a sentence of 142 years to life for Rauda. But after subsequently meeting with attorneys, she reconvened the hearing and said she had made a miscalculation, and revised the sentence to 119 years to life.
“This case was chilling. It was violent. It was cold-blooded,” the judge said. “There’s absolutely no remorse. It’s like somebody’s worst nightmare.”
Hunter said Rauda was not only “cold-blooded” but also smart, calling it a dangerous combination. The judge said she had been “around a long time” and seen “many, many dangerous people” and told Rauda that he ranks “amongst the top with regard to your dangerousness to the community.”
“Your only motive that day was to kill, your only motive that day was to kill,” the judge said, adding that he had “earned every single aspect” of being restrained in court because he had stabbed one Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy and punched another and keeps “spitting at everybody” since he’s been behind bars.
“This case wasn’t just a cold-blooded case. You’ve continued to act violent, to be aggressive, and that’s how you are,” Hunter told the defendant. “So the thought of endangering the public—you’re like a poster boy for it.”
She noted that he was “smart enough” to waive his presence in front of the jury that heard the murder case against him.
The victim’s widow, Erica Wu, requested the maximum sentence for Rauda, saying in an emotional statement that she wanted to tell their daughters that the person who had killed their father would be behind bars for life.
“That may be an over-simplification, but it’s the only outcome that makes sense, that they and I are safe and that we never have to worry about him getting out, that this person was never allowed to walk a day free when he robbed Tristan of that very same privilege and robbed everyone Tristan knew of having him in their lives,” Beaudette’s wife told the judge.
She said she has often heard the word “unimaginable” used to describe what happened in the tent, but said she has “imagined it so many times” because she knew them each so well as only a wife and mother could.
“Even though I wasn’t there, I feel as if I was,” she said, adding that her daughters—then 2 and 4 years old— would have been confused and terrified and imagining what it was like for her husband, with whom she was set to celebrate their 10th anniversary two months later.
“I hope that he would have died instantly and not had to experience any of it,” she said. “But did he feel it? Did he know what happened? Were there seconds or minutes where he felt pain, where he could feel his own blood pooling beneath him, where he could see or hear his girls screaming or crying next to him?”
During the murder trial, Deputy District Attorney Antonella Nistorescu told jurors the evidence against Rauda was “overwhelming,” while Rauda’s attorney told the panel that there was reasonable doubt and urged the jury to acquit his client.
The prosecutor said ballistics testing linked a rifle that was found in a backpack Rauda was carrying at the time of his arrest to the bullet that killed Beaudette and a shooting that damaged a white Tesla being driven nearby a few days earlier.
Nistorescu said the defendant finally “managed to do what he had persistently” been trying to do, when he killed Beaudette as he was sleeping next to his daughters. Beaudette’s youngest daughter’s leggings were covered in her father’s blood when she knelt next to him after the shooting, the prosecutor said.
The prosecutor alleged that Rauda wore a mask and dark clothing and toted a rifle when he committed the burglaries, including two at the Calabasas Community Center and two at the Las Virgenes Water District between July and October 2018, calling him “thorough,” “deliberate”, and “careful.”
After the last break-in, Rauda was tracked down through bootprints and a scent dog to a makeshift encampment on Oct. 10, 2018, Nistorescu said.
Rauda’s attorney, Nicholas Okorocha, countered that there was “reasonable doubt” involving the charges against his client.
He told jurors they should watch for an absence of evidence that indicates gaps in the case.
“You have these unanswered questions,” the defense lawyer said in his closing argument.
He noted that DNA testing done on cigarette butts found near where authorities believe the gunman shot at Beaudette’s tent showed that the DNA came from an as-yet unidentified male and that it does not match his client’s DNA.
Okorocha said the investigation has gone on for 4 1/2 years and is “still ongoing” as authorities try to figure out whose DNA was on the cigarette butts.
“There’s clearly reasonable doubt,” he said, asking jurors to “follow the law” and “find Anthony Rauda not guilty.”
In her rebuttal argument, the prosecutor countered that the discussion about the cigarette butts was a “red herring,” saying they were found in a public campground and had no logical connection to Beaudette’s shooting.
Day of the Shooting: Witnesses
During emotional testimony, Beaudette’s brother-in-law Scott McCurdy told the downtown Los Angeles jury that he was sleeping in a nearby tent when he was awakened by “several loud pops” that he initially thought may have been fireworks or something from a nearby fire pit and saw “like a flash of light” early the morning of June 22, 2018.
He said he heard one of Beaudette’s daughters start to cry and waited for his brother-in-law to calm the girl down, then decided to get out of his own tent to see what was going on when he heard the girl’s older sister talking with her.
“I heard the girls crying,” he said, telling jurors that Beaudette’s youngest daughter said, “Wet, wet” and that he didn’t think anything about it at the time.
McCurdy said he tried to verbally comfort the girls while trying to rouse his brother-in-law from sleep and turned on his brother-in-law’s phone after noticing that his own hand felt slippery.
“My hand was covered in blood,” he said, noting that he turned back to his brother-in-law and saw the girls kneeling in a pool of blood and his brother-in-law’s face in a pool of blood.
He said he reached down to try to feel his brother-in-law’s neck for a pulse and realized he should get the girls out of the tent and call out to neighboring campers for help. The victim’s brother-in-law said he held onto the girls until a few neighbors came over and then went back into the tent to check on Beaudette.
“I noticed there was nothing in his eyes,” he said of the 35-year-old research scientist from Irvine. “I realized he was gone and I left.”
He said he started to put together what had happened to Beaudette and recalled that he had noticed that there was a small hole in the fairly new tent at the campsite, where toys were strewn about and a children’s bike was on top of one of the vehicles.
The prosecution’s first witness, Stacey Sebourn, who was camping nearby, said she was awakened early that day by the sound of gunshots that sounded like they came from a shotgun or rifle. She said she called 911 after hearing a man calling for help and a baby crying.
“It was a very mournful cry for daddy over and over again—’daddy, daddy, daddy,’” she said.
She said she whispered during her 911 call to report the shooting because she didn’t want to bring attention to her own tent.
“I was petrified,” she said, noting that she didn’t initially come out of her tent after the shooting.
Rauda was arrested on Oct. 10, 2018.
He was sentenced in December 2018 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.
He was charged in January 2019 with the alleged crime spree and subsequently indicted in October 2019.
Rauda was sentenced last June to three years and eight months in jail after being convicted of attacking the two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies since he’s been in custody. Both of those attacks were caught on surveillance video, and Rauda was subsequently brought into court for further hearings in a chair in which he was confined.