This article was updated on September 10th at 7:38 a.m.
By Cece Woods, Editor in Chief
Area residents woke up to more startling news last Wednesday when major media outlets dispatched helicopters to broadcast live aerial footage of skeletal remains found on a hiking trail at the base of the Santa Mountains.
Lost Hills Sheriffs Department arrived at the scene after a CalTrans worker discovered the remains off trail at the Juan Bautista de Anza Trailhead at the end of Calabasas Rd. September 5th.
This has been a scary summer for Malibu Canyon residents and the general public who frequent the area, as a series of serious crimes have been committed, bringing to light an even more serious public safety issue. And it appears that law enforcement knows a lot more than they are telling us.
The murder of Tristan Beaudette at Malibu Creek State Park was a wake up call for the community surrounding the park, as well as the discovery of multiple victims who came forth after hearing of Beaudette’s murder, exposing a cover-up of multiple shooting incidents dating back to 2016.
Since then, additional violent crimes have occurred in the area, including two body dumps that appear to be gang affiliated hits, multiple missing persons cases, and more…
And now the skeletal remains found September 5th. Another case investigators are – supposedly – working on in this high profile area.
Why do I say “supposedly“?
The Lost Hills Sheriff Department has been very busy as the bodies appear to be piling up lately.
Since May, the skeletal remains (found last Wednesday) are considered to be the fifth body found (contrary to other local reports), in four months, and two people (that we know of) are still missing. Matthew Weaver Jr., 21 who disappeared August 10th on Stunt and Schueren Rd., and Elaine Park who vanished over a year and a half ago in the same area.
And the lack of communication in all of these cases, along with the attempt to cover up, brings back another very high profile case, Mitrice Richardson.
Mitrice disappeared 9 years ago and was missing for 11 months. Her body was found under very suspicious circumstances.
The case remains unsolved.
Reynaldo Cruz, 52, was found dead in May, in his underwear, by a resident in a ditch behind the Hindu Temple on Las Virgenes Road. The cause of death, apparently by various signs of torture, reported to have the distinct markings of an MS 13 execution style gang hit.
Tristan Beaudette’s body was found on June 22nd at Malibu Creek State Park. Beaudette died by gunshot wound to the head, in his tent, while laying next to his two young daughters.
The decomposed body of Roger Chavez Barahona, a 19 year old latino male, was found near Fire Camp 8 on July 19. Coroner reports state that Barahona died as a result of gunshot wounds, not related to Malibu Canyon shootings, however, does appear to be gang affiliated.
Jose Martinez went missing on August 17th and was the fourth body found, in his vehicle, that apparently went off the embankment on Kanan Rd. The vehicle was found on August 22nd.
Bischoff, who provided the map above, also added that “CalTrans crews were in this area about a month ago but they do not normally use the local road to access the slope”.
After taking a walk down the trail with co-founder of The Local, Steve Woods, to investigate the area, we turned down a path off trail with lush vegetation, which appeared to be the same area where deputies were pointing to in aerial footage from CBS at the crime scene last week (and in the screen shot above). While it is entirely possible someone could have wandered in there and dropped dead of natural causes, it is also entirely possible that someone did not, hence the impressive response by law enforcement (and the coroner’s) at the scene.
The Art of Communication is Leadership
Within hours of arriving on scene, law enforcement notified the families of missing persons that they were “99% sure” the skeletal remains were not that of Matthew Weaver Jr., who went missing last month, or of Elaine Park who went missing in January of 2017. Officials offered up details to the next of kin of these families, continuing to search for their loved ones, informing them the remains were that of a male, and that there was apparently identification found next to the remains. Officials also communicated to the families that they believed the remains were associated with “an older case” Lost Hills was working on – and believe it or not – all of this information was apparently available at the scene.
So why was most of the media reporting a completely different story?
Because, Lt. Rodney Moore, head of the Homicide Division for LASD was summoned out to the scene to give an official statement to the media. Lt. Moore said on camera, to members of the press at the crime scene that he (along with two other homicide investigators) were “uanble to determine a cause of death or any identifying features”, and that they were “processing the area as if it was a crime scene”.
When asked if Lt. Moore had any idea whether the remains were male or female, Lt. Moore answered: “No, it’s just bones…”. Lt. Moore was also asked how long the remains were in the area, he answered: “They have been here for a significant amount of time”. When pressed further, Lt. Moore said “right now I don’t want to put a time frame on it, I’ll let the coroner determine that.”
However, according to local newspaper The Acorn, Calabasas City manager Gary Lysik shockingly seemed more informed than homicide investigators – and most certainly more the press at the crime scene.
Lysik got on his soap box divulging very sensitive information he was apparently privy to via Captain Josh Thai of the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department, to The Acorn – and get this – it completely contradicts what Lt. Moore told the rest of the world watching the news on all the major stations, regarding the investigation of the skeletal remains.
In fact, in the screen shot of the article (above), City Manager Lysik went as far as to imply LHSD’s job was basically done there, confidently stating there was “absolutely no evidence of any wrong doing…” , and “They’re not calling this a homicide” – which is completely the opposite statement Lt. Moore made at the press conference.
If I were a betting girl, my money would be on Sheriff Jim McDonnell, who probably won’t be too happy that one of his personnel, Captain Josh Thai (according to Lysik) released confidential information, which is a big no-no according to this this inner department communication circulated last May. Did Captain Thai not get the memo?
Back to the press conference on September 5th.
Was Lt. Moore lying to the media? Or was Captain Thai lying to City manager Lysik? Or a little of both?
Because, this crime scene sure had the makings of a high profile case given the the response by law enforcement and you don’t drag the the head of the homicide division for LASD from downtown to a press conference in Calabasas for “absolutely no evidence of wrongdoing…”
…or do you?
Were we witness to another dog and pony show like the Public Safety Meeting at King Gillette Ranch last month? A bunch of “pomp” with no “circumstance”?
Is LASD wasting resources dispatching multiple homicide investigators and requesting an excessive response (in terms of personnel) from an already overloaded Medical Examiner’s office?
Because, based on Lysik’s quotes to The Acorn via Captain Thai of LHSD, it sure sounds like it.
Did LHSD start a new investigation procedure at crime scenes we’re not aware of? Because, as Lysik implies in his quotes, it looks like LHSD closed the books on this case lightening fast. And it sure seemed like there was a lot of evidence to process.
Evidence collected by not one, but two vans from the LA County Coroner’s office along with an official vehicle – which is more than the average response for skeletal remains for one body, especially if authorities were “not calling this a homicide” (according to Lysik), as myself and other members of the press discussed at the scene.
I personally called the coroner’s office the day after the remains were found and spoke to a less than cordial watch commander. When I asked if the skeletal remains were male or female she answered: “How would we know that? We only got them yesterday, it will take weeks to find that out.”
So if The Acorn is reporting the Coroner’s made an official statement to them that the skeletal remains were “no more than 6 months old”, did the Coroner’s office magically get caught up on their backlog of 180 bodies dating back to 2016, or were they just winging it?
And if there is “no evidence of wrongdoing” and investigators are not “calling this a homicide” per Lysik (via Capt. Thai), why is the Coroner’s office pushing this case ahead of other high profile, unsolved, homicides and making statements to The Acorn and not other media outlets?
Something really stinks here and it’s not the smell of formaldehyde.
Bad Intel, Bad Reporting or Covering Up the Bad?
Given what we know now, it is starting to become apparent that deception is the name of the game when it comes to bringing the facts to light, especially in these cases. There also seems to be many entities complicit in disseminating misleading information.
The Acorn Newspaper headquartered in the Valley, (not far from Lost Hills SD station) has been repeatedly reporting false information regarding these recent crimes (even tagging Lost Hills Sheriffs Department in their tweets!) without responding to or updating the information on social media and their website, leading to not only confusing the public, they are in some cases, outright leading readers down the wrong path.
Could this be an intentional act to cover up for state agencies, bad intel gathering, or just plain bad reporting?
Initial reports of the skeletal remains were reported on The Acorn’s social media as being in Malibu.
Another incident falsely reported by the paper was associated with Jose Martinez. Martinez went missing Friday, August 17th, one week after Matthew Weaver Jr. disappeared. He was last seen at Ollie’s Duck Dive On Heathercliff Rd. in Malibu. Witnesses told law enforcement he had only one beer and left before 9 p.m.
Martinez’s car was found five days later, off an embankment, on Kanan Rd., on August 22, with his body still in the vehicle. Cause of death listed at the backlogged coroner’s office was a fast determination of “multiple traumatic injuries”, supposedly as a result of the accident.
The Acorn reported that Martinez was driving on August 22, at 12 noon, on Kanan (see screen shot below). However, his family maintains that is false information based on the details and phone records they have in their possession. Martinez’s uncle was very upset by the report when I called him to ask if it was true, and told me that there were “lots of rumors” being circulated about Jose.
Martinez had recently moved to the valley, was attending school and was a serious soccer player. He was well liked and did not appear to be troubled. His family, obviously devastated by his death were searching for clues from the beginning because clearly none of the circumstances surrounding his death made sense. Including that he died in the crash as the headline states in The Acorn. And even more troubling is how The Acorn knew to report the death as an accident on scene, before the Medical Examiner and toxicology tests were concluded?
In their most recent article regarding the remains found last Wednesday, The Acorn, quoting City manager Lysik, outright dismissed reports of gunshots by residents, attributing them to firecrackers, backfires and a blown transformer.
Did Lysik or his representatives attend the same Public Safety meeting hosted by Senator Henry Stern and a stage filled with top law enforcement brass who were there specifically to answer questions about at least seven confirmed shootings and a murder – or am I missing something?
Because the meeting I attended was a packed auditorium filled with residents and news media, and everyone wanted answers as to why residents and commuters were not warned about the confirmed shootings until a murder took place. And they did not believe that “Everything else was fireworks or a transformer that made some noice, a car backfired.” as Lysik told The Acorn.
Residents, some living in the area for decades, know something is going on and are clearly pissed off they aren’t getting answers.
I personally went through every report of victims of shootings, reports of shots fired, bodies found, and missing persons updating the map below before the Public Safety Meeting with Lt. James Royal of Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department. Royal verified every incident with me and also assured me that LHSD took every report very seriously, acting accordingly, including shutting down Malibu Canyon at Piuma multiple times, responding with air and ground support which included canines in some cases.
Does that sound like “a whole lot of nothing” to you as Lysik and The Acorn are spinning it?
While LHSD may not have evidence of shots fired at some of the scenes, I personally know of two people who have found bullets on the local trails in the last six months. One is The Local co-founder Steve Woods who found a bullet in the spring and the other is City of Malibu Public Safety Manager (imagine that) Susan Duenas who also found a bullet on a trail in the area in the last month, and reported it to Lost Hills Sheriffs Department. The latter was confirmed by Lt. Royal as his deputies were scheduled to pick the bullet up from Duenas’s office to have it processed.
How many other hikers have come across bullets on local trails since the shootings began at least 2 years ago? That’s the more important question to ask.
Maybe that will help shed a little more light on why there have been so many reports of shots fired since the murder of Beaudette.
For those of you who have been following my political articles (or political posts on social media), you probably are well aware of my disdain for Malibu City Manager Reva Feldman, and you also know the last thing I would ever do is give that woman a compliment.
Well apparently hell has frozen over, so here it comes.
I may not like the way Feldman runs the City of Malibu, but damn, at least I know she wouldn’t be arrogant enough to make the kind of statements Lysik made regarding the information he received from Captain Thai (at least I know she wouldn’t say them in public that’s for sure)… and for that I am thankful.
Because, I’m pretty sure publishing the comments Lysik made to The Acorn has created a shit storm.
If it hasn’t yet, it’s about to.
And now, I will promptly book a plane ticket to Siberia where I may have to hide out for a while.
If anything ever happens to me, you’ve got plenty of information here to start with.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: For the record, I reached out to Lost Hills Sheriff Department for comment and did not receive a response to my inquiries about the comments Captain Thai made to City Manager Lysik.
Thank you for shedding light on this. I stand with you.