Young Father's Murder in a Campground Baffles Police — and Rattles the Community
Authorities are probing whether Tristan Beaudette’s slaying is related to a series of unsolved shootings around the area of Malibu Creek State Park
Nearly a month after a California scientist was fatally shot while camping with his two young daughters, police are still uncertain about the motive but are actively hunting for the killer.
Authorities are also looking into whether 35-year-old Tristan Beaudette’s slaying is related to a series of unsolved shootings that have plagued the area around picturesque Malibu Creek State Park over the last two years, PEOPLE confirms.
“Right now there are a lot of unknowns,” says Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Rodney Moore.
Beaudette’s death, which prompted a $5,000 reward from the Malibu City Council, rattled campground regulars who have enjoyed the park’s relative safety, close proximity to L.A. and tranquil hiking trails.
The young father — who worked as a researcher at Allergan, a pharmaceutical company — was camping with his 2-and 4-year old daughters at the park while his wife, Erica Wu, a resident in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, Irvine, stayed home to study for an upcoming exam.
The couple was preparing to relocate to the Bay Area. But those plans were upended when Beaudette, described by one friend as “a rare combination of unrestrained kindness and refined competence,” was found fatally shot in the head inside his tent in the early morning hours of June 22, authorities said.
His daughters were in the tent with him but were uninjured.
Who killed Beaudette — and why — remain key questions without answers. Because the shooting occurred around 4 a.m. as other campers slept, authorities have no suspect description.
As for motive, Lt. Moore says, “I couldn’t even begin to guess.”
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A History of Gunfire
After the homicide, police began investigating seven unsolved reports of gunfire in the area outside of the park over the previous two years:
One of the shootings involved a man whose car was allegedly hit by gunfire as he was driving four days before Beaudette was killed, Cece Woods, the editor and owner of The Local Malibu, a local news website, told PEOPLE.
In November 2016, the Los Angeles Times reported that James Rogers was sleeping overnight in a hammock in Tapia Park, just south of Malibu Creek, when he was struck in the right arm by birdshot from a shotgun.
And last week, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department responded to two new reports of possible shots fired near the park.
According to sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida, the shots were heard on July 9 at approximately 1 a.m. and July 12 at approximately 10 p.m. near Las Virgenes and Piuma Roads, southeast of the park.
Nishida says deputies were unable to find any evidence of any shots fired, however.
So far, authorities have not found any definitive link to Beaudette’s killing and previous gunfire in the area.
The shooting of Beaudette, a doting dad who loved cooking and microbrews and who “was happiest out in nature” with his family, has left his loved ones reeling.
“It’s absolutely tragic that somebody as good as him had this happen to him,” friend Brian Chen tells PEOPLE.
“He was one of those people who you’re really sure are going to do really well in life, and you hope that they do,” says college friend Tripp Floyd.
“They’re very agreeable, you like them, they’re very good at everything. If you could pick out someone that you think is going to do well in life — you hope that they do well in life — Tristan would be one of those people.”
Anyone with information on Beaudette’s murder or other shootings at Malibu Creek State Park should contact the homicide bureau of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department at 323-890-5500 or Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.