Following a prosecutor's rebuttal in closing arguments, jurors Tuesday are expected to be handed the case against a man linked to a crime spree that included the killing of a research scientist shot while camping with his two young daughters in a tent at Malibu Creek State Park nearly five years ago.
Anthony Rauda, now 46, is facing a murder charge stemming from the June 22, 2018, killing of Tristan Beaudette, along with attempted murder charges involving a series of early morning shootings typically between 3 and 5 a.m, including one in which a man who had been sleeping in a hammock initially thought he had been bitten in the arm by an animal.
The defendant is also facing five counts of second-degree commercial burglary involving a series of break-ins, including two at the Calabasas Community Center and two at the Las Virgenes Water District facility between July and October 2018, that primarily involved food that was taken from the facilities.
In closing arguments Monday, prosecutors told jurors that evidence links Rauda to the killing and the crime spree -- while a defense attorney told the panel there is reasonable doubt and urged the jury to acquit his client.
In her closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Antonella Nistorescu told jurors that Rauda had a "pattern of stalking and preying on campers" at Malibu Creek State Park that began with a man being shot while sleeping in a hammock in November 2016 and that the victims were shot at between 3 and 5 a.m. -- a time when the prosecutor said people are usually in their deepest, most peaceful sleep -- as they camped at the state park.
Unsuspecting motorists were also shot at while driving nearby in white vehicles in the dark of night, with ballistics testing subsequently linking a rifle that was found in a backpack that Rauda was carrying at the time of his arrest to the bullet that killed Beaudette and a shooting that damaged a white Tesla that was being driven nearby a few days earlier, according to the prosecutor.
Nistorescu said the defendant "managed to do what he had persistently tried" to do since 2016 when he killed Beaudette as he was sleeping next to his daughters, who are named as victims among the 10 attempted murder charges. His youngest daughter's leggings were covered in her father's blood when she kneeled 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, 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.
Deputy District Attorney Brian Kang said a search of Rauda's devices showed that he had researched homemade firearms, hitting a car with a bullet and being a fugitive, with the prosecutor adding, "If you're not doing anything wrong, you don't have to be a fugitive."
Rauda's attorney, Nicholas Okorocha, countered that there was "reasonable doubt" involving the charges against his client.
He told jurors that 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, telling jurors that he is asking them to "follow the law" and "find Anthony Rauda not guilty."
Superior Court Judge Eleanor J. Hunter noted that Rauda was not in court just before the trial's opening statements, telling jurors that he had "elected to exercise his constitutional right not to be present."
Rauda was arrested 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 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.
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