Could Key Witnesses Missing from Malibu Creek State Park Shootings Trial be the Smoking Gun Leading to Mistrial or Acquittal?
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Could Key Witnesses Missing from Malibu Creek State Park Shootings Trial be the Smoking Gun Leading to Mistrial or Acquittal?

After almost five years behind bars and multiple circus-like appearances before a judge, Anthony Rauda, accused of the murder of Tristan Beaudette and seven other shootings in the Malibu Creek State Park area between 2016-2018, was finally afforded his right to a trial.

My sources at the DA’s office were shocked at the speediness of the high profile trial which was initially scheduled to last two months, the timeframe was then dwindled down to 6 weeks, ultimately concluding Anthony Rauda’s fate in a lightening fast 2 1/2 week trial.

On June 7th, 2023, Anthony Rauda was convicted of second-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder and five counts of second-degree commercial burglary. He was sentenced to 119 years to life in prison.

The jury acquitted him of seven other attempted murder charges which means Rauda was ultimately found NOT RESPONSIBLE for the other shootings in the area prior to June 2018. This also suggests there is a high probability the shooter responsible for those crimes is roaming free in Malibu Canyon.

In January 2019, newly elected Sheriff Alex Villanueva imposed strict disciplinary action against Lt. Jim Royal and Sgt. Tui Wright who were put under Internal Affairs investigation and transferred from the Lost Hills Station as a result of their actions in the Malibu Creek State Park Shootings case. However, surprisingly, Rauda’s defense attorney, Nicholas Okorocha, decided not to cross-examine them at the trial.

Why would the defense attorney give up the opportunity to cross examine key witnesses who were not only under internal affairs investigation and disciplined for their part in the mishandling of this case, but also witnessed potential malfeasance by department members which very well could have lead to a mistrial or even acquittal?


Multiple sources at the Lost Hills station informed me it was no secret members of the Sheriff’s Department thought the Malibu Creek State Park shooter could be one of their own.

For the past 14 years, there have been four high profile cases in Malibu Canyon that have had serious issues with law enforcement cover-ups, corruption and intentionally misleading the public and media.

All of these cases have one common denominator, (now retired) Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sergeant Tui Wright.

On June 22nd, 2018, LASD personnel from the Lost Hills station reported to Malibu Creek State Park after shots fired were called into the station at 4:44 a.m. discovering the body of Tristan Beaudette, 34, who was shot to death in his tent while he lay next to his two young daughters then 2 and 4 years old.

Testimony from the Grand Jury in October, 2019, states location data from electronic devices allegedly belonging to Rauda put him in the area the morning of the murder.

However, Rauda was not alone.

I was informed by a high ranking officer that upon arrival at the murder scene he noted the presence of Sgt. Tui Wright. He told me he found it especially odd Sgt. Wright was at the murder scene before station personnel arrived. According to my source, Sgt. Wright was in charge of Search & Rescue and was not contacted or asked to deploy to the scene.

The high ranking officer proceeded to tell me he noticed Sgt. Wright’s behavior increasingly strange throughout the day. Wright repeatedly inquired about bringing K9s to the scene to search for evidence – to the point of being overbearing.

According to my sources, homicide detectives declined bringing in K9s multiple times that day. Eventually, detectives finally agreed to bring the dogs out, however, the K9 unit never arrived.

Homicide detectives on scene at Malibu Creek State Park investigating the murder of Tristan Beaudette on June 22, 2018.

A week later, while in a meeting at the Lost Hills Station with homicide detectives, the same high ranking officer received a phone call from Sgt. Wright, who, against department protocol and procedure, was at the murder scene conducting his own investigation of an area that had been thoroughly searched the day of the murder. Wright brought in his own K9s to search the area and “discovered” 9mm shells approximately 40 yards from the murder scene.

One deputy I spoke with who was involved in the searches told me homicide detectives contacted him to ask him if he dropped ammunition from his gun as the 9mm bullets that were “found” by Wright are consistent with law enforcement department issue duty pistols – and the bullet that killed Beaudette.


Tui Oscar Wright, grew up in the canyons in and around Malibu. At a young age, Wright, a longtime Topanga resident, developed a fascination for shooting guns… specifically rifles.

In a 2020 Messenger Mountain News article memorializing his mother who had recently passed, a neighbor included a somewhat telling recollection of Wright in the story. The incident involved Wright engaging in reckless behavior by shooting rifles in State Park during his teens.

“The most noteworthy transgression was one involving a neighbor boy who had a rifle. Tui…and my oldest son, Greg… went with this youngster (Tui) into the state park to practice shooting things. After a few shots, some hikers reported them to the ranger and the sheriff was called in. Tui was handcuffed, but somehow …managed to escape and make it back to the house where my son, Chris, did his best to saw off the cuffs…Thereafter she saw to it that Tui went to special classes to learn the proper way of handling guns. Later on in life he was to become a deputy sheriff.”


Wright went on to serve in the military as a Marine and joined the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department as a narcotics detective, participated on the Marijuana Eradication Team in the Santa Monica Mountains region and served head of Malibu Search & Rescue.


In 2009, Mitrice Richardson, 24, was released from the Lost Hills Station shortly after midnight on September 17th, 2009 with no money, no cell phone and no transportation to safety into the dead of night.

At the time, Sgt. Wright was the head of Malibu Search and Rescue and in charge of all the searches in the area. According to Dr. Ronda Hampton, a clinical psychologist from Diamond Bar who was Richardson’s mentor and has been an integral part of the case from the beginning, Wright’s behavior and actions were extremely troubling and suspicious right from the start.

Multiple sources revealed Wright continuously and purposefully failed to follow department protocol. During the first search in 2009, he intentionally stopped the K9s after they picked up Richardson’s scent. Initially, the search was scheduled for two days, but after the dogs picked up Richardson’s scent, Wright decided not to have them return the second day.

A few months later, during another search in 2010, Wright intentionally led a drone operator away from the area where Richardson’s body was ultimately found.

These are just a few important examples of disturbing actions by Wright during critical times that were observed as suspiciously intentional and counterintuitive to finding Richardson.

On August 10th, 2010, almost a year later, Richardson’s mummified remains were found in a creek bed approximately 1.5 miles where she was last seen.

Although it was originally reported Richardson was found by State Park Rangers, Wright, in a face to face exchange with Dr. Hampton, told her he was the one who found Richardson’s body and provided detailed information about the condition of the body.

Sgt. Tui Wright, Chip Croft and Dr. Ronda Hampton during a search for Mitrice Richardson in 2010.


In the grand jury testimony, Rauda’s devices detected him in Northern California in early 2018 before returning to the Malibu Canyon area at the time of the murder.

Coincidentally, Sgt. Wright has his own history in Northern California.

In 2012, two-years after Richardson was found, Sgt. Wright was on the  “hunting trip of a lifetime” and by his own admission, made a potentially “life-altering” decision.

Wright was in Mendocino county, in Northern California, deer hunting with a 12-year-old male, just north of Westport, in an area widely known as “bush hippy” neighborhood.

According to witnesses, Wright was on a spotlight equipped ATV hunting for the coveted deer on the last day of hunting season. The neighbors heard shots after dark and Wright was found with a deer well past eight o’clock at night on private property. The landowner confronted Wright, who was armed with a rifle and his concealed duty weapon. The property owner only armed with a .22 pistol.

As a result of the confrontation, the landowner was arrested for threatening Wright, although Wright had clearly violated the “No Hunting” and “No Trespassing” signs, not to mention the strict safety rules that there is to be no hunting after dark.

In court for the incident Wright said on record “I was a fool to think I could hunt in this lawless area…I have never in my life been so terrified. I have been in gunfights with LA gangsters and in many dangerous situations over the years, but nothing as bad as this. I have been forced to seek counseling and I’ve been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder from this incident.”

The Westport and Wages Creek Road area where this incident took place have approximately 15 to 20 houses along the sunny side of the creek where historically there has been no hunting allowed for obvious reasonsThe residents have always had an agreement hunting would be done over on the shady side of the creek where there are no homes. The landowner who confronted Wright, posted in front of his house “No Hunting” and “No Trespassing” signs. The rules were very clear with respect to guidelines for hunting in the area, which were ignored by Wright as evidenced by a photograph of one of the “No Hunting” and “No Trespassing” signs right where Wright was found with the deer.

In court, Wright explained to the judge how being confronted by the landowner caused him to seek counseling and lose work. He didn’t know if he could continue in his stressful line of workHe said he worried he might “freeze up” at a decisive moment or shoot someone who didn’t deserve to be shot. He said he’d been diagnosed with PTSD. “This incident will not be leaving me in my dreams, any time soon,” Wright told the judge.

Retired Sgt. Tui Wright hunting in Northern California.

The landowner testified to the court that in the last 25 years, this was the first time he’d ever had anyone hunting in his front yard, especially after dark.

“Tui Wright was someone who was up to no good when he first went down there. He saw the deer next to the “No Hunting” sign… Now, we all know you can’t hunt after dark. But you can mesmerize deer with a spotlight, and I know Tui Wright has denied this, but here he is on the last day of what he himself describes as a ‘dream hunt’ and he still hasn’t got a deer” the defense told the court.


Reports of shots fired were on-going for months after the murder with the Lost Hills station downplaying them as “cars backfiring, transformer explosions, firecrackers” – basically attempting to mislead the public into thinking the noises they were hearing were anything but a firearm. Every time deputies responded to the location where the shots were reported, the official outcome of their search was “no evidence was found”.

The community was outraged by not only the exposure of the law enforcement cover-up and the continued fear of a shooter on the loose which prompted a town hall on to August 19th, 2018, organized by Senator Henry Stern.

Representatives from Law Enforcement and State Agencies gathered at King Gillette Ranch for what was supposed to be an update on “Safety in the Santa Monica Mountains”.

Lt. Jim Royal (far right) along with Homicide Bureau Lt Rodney Moore (second from far right) along with members of local law enforcement agencies at the “Make Our Mountains Safe Again” meeting on August 19th, 2018 at King Gillette Ranch.

After the meeting, according to Dr. Ronda Hampton, who was in attendance, noticed Sgt. Wright was clearly agitated as he approached her and another community member.

“Brass forced Royal to go up there” Wright said referencing (now retired) Chief John Benedict who according to court documents allegedly ordered Royal to keep the shootings from the public – and was still expecting him to face the irate community members at the meeting.

“I’m the one who should have been up there” Wright continued.

Hampton, who has been very vocal publicly her belief that Wright is involved somehow with Richardson’s demise replied “Why would you want to be up there? Are you jealous?”

Unfortunately, before he could answer, I walked up to Wright and Dr. Hampton and interrupted the conversation.

In the days before the meeting, a local resident and reserve deputy was summoned into Lt. Royal’s office where he was interrogated by Lt. Royal and Sgt. Wright who accused the reserve deputy of leaking information to me. As the reserve deputy was being grilled by Royal and Wright, they threatened to remove him from his position if he was in fact supplying me with information ( he was not).

During that meeting, Sgt. Wright said to him “She knows too much”.

How much is too much?


On October 6th, 2018, a high-profile man hunt took place in Malibu Canyon after an alleged sighting of the “burglar” toting what law enforcement believed to be the same model rifle that killed Tristan Beaudette.

LASD Special Enforcement Bureau during the manhunt on Malibu Canyon Rd., October 6th, 2018 Photo: Cece Woods

As SWAT stopped traffic to deploy into the creek bed at Piuma and Malibu Canyon Road, a community member who was driving through the canyon on his motorcycle earlier that day, spotted Rauda’s campsite. He took down the coordinates of the exact location and delivered the  the information to the command post handing it to Sgt. Wright.

Four days later, Rauda was arrested by major crimes detectives at the exact location provided by the community member along with a conveniently present NBC news helicopter positioned above to capture the arrest in real time.

What happened in the four days between the manhunt and the arrest?

According to my sources, shortly after the arrest, Sgt. Wright decided (again), against department procedure and protocol, to return to Rauda’s campsite after Major Crimes detectives thoroughly searched the scene. Per my source, Sgt. Wright “found” a torn up map of a State Park in Northern California, coincidentally, an area that Sgt. Wright is also familiar with as a hunter.

Per my sources, the map was turned over as evidence, however, one of the detectives on the case, Stephanie Shrout, was unhappy with Wright’s “findings” as she allegedly believed it was going to interfere with the case LASD was building against Rauda and told him to book the evidence under a different case number.

Shortly after Wright’s discovery of the map, according to sources, he ran into the Captain of Major Crimes at a department function and boasted about his “discovery” of the map at Rauda’s campsite after Major Crimes detectives searched the scene. Sources say the Captain was furious and had no knowledge of Wright’s involvement in “finding” potential new evidence.

A few months later, in January 2019, Wright, along with Lt. James Royal were both disciplined, transferred and placed under internal affairs investigation as a result of their involvement in the shootings investigations.

Wright sent out the email to Search & Rescue personnel:

Wright retired early under a cloud of scrutiny with a long history of involvement in cover-ups, failing to follow department policy and procedure, intentionally misleading the public and the media.

When Rauda’s trial wrapped up unusually fast given the original projection of two months and with a conviction of second degree murder, I reached out to Rauda’s defense attorney, Nicholas Okorocha, knowing the mountain of reasonable doubt that existed, who responded to my inquiries confirming that the appeal was filed and more importantly, confirmed Wright and Royal did not take the stand.

This is a developing story.

June 25, 2023

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Editor in Chief, Cece Woods

Malibu Daily News Editor in Chief Cece Woods founded The Local Malibu, an activism based platform, in 2014. The publication was instrumental in the success of two ballot measures, seating three Malibu City Councilmen in 2016 and the supporting the top two vote-getters again in 2020.

During the summer of 2018, Woods exposed the law enforcement cover-up in the Malibu Creek State Park Shootings and a few short months later, provided the most comprehensive local news coverage during the Woolsey Fire attracting over 1 million hits across her social media platforms.