The sheriff’s deputies began arriving at the campsite around 5 a.m. Friday, shattering the pre-dawn quiet at Malibu Creek State Park, a popular getaway less than 30 miles west of Beverly Hills.
There, they converged on a clearing where two tents were pitched several yards from each other. Inside one of them, investigators found 35-year-old Tristan Beaudette with at least one gunshot wound to his upper torso, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Also inside the tent were Beaudette’s two young daughters, ages 2 and 4, physically unharmed, CBS Los Angeles reported.
Beaudette was pronounced dead at the scene, authorities said. The Irvine, Calif., resident had been camping with other family members, but none of them were injured, they added.
The tragic discovery set off a weekend of unease at a state park known mostly for its serene views, hiking trails and proximity to Los Angeles. (The park served as a filming site before it was opened to the public in 1976, and one of its biggest draws is the former outdoor set of “M*A*S*H.”)
All Friday, investigators could be seen arriving at the park — even after dark — to scour it for evidence and leads, according to local TV news reports. Footage showed a sheriff’s helicopter flying overhead, while a police canine sniffed the area around the campsite, which was roped off with yellow police tape. Near the two tents, several camp chairs — including a child-size one in purple and teal — were clustered around a fire pit.
However, authorities said Sunday that they still had no motive, leads or suspects in the shooting death of Beaudette — aside from the belief that his two daughters had been with him when he was shot.
“The theory we are working with is he was shot inside the tent,” Lt. Rodney Moore told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday. “The children were inside the tent, too.”
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Monday that it had no more details to release pending the active homicide investigation. Officials have not stated which family members were camping with Beaudette but told ABC 7 News that his wife had not gone on the trip.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Beaudette graduated with a PhD in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 2010 and had worked since then for Allergan, an Irvine pharmaceutical company. But he was “happiest out in nature, and spent every chance he could hiking, biking, snowboarding and camping with his family,” his family said in a statement to The Washington Post.
Photos posted by Beaudette’s family during the weekend showed him doing just that: In one, he is clutching the hands of each of his two daughters as they stand on a shore, watching a wave crash in. In another, he and his family are settled on the beach in the process of roasting s’mores; Beaudette has one arm around his wife’s camp chair, the other around his older daughter, who is seated in a miniature purple-and-teal camp chair for kids.
In a GoFundMe account started for Beaudette’s family during the weekend, his loved ones mourned the loss of a man they described as an “amazing father, husband, son and brother.”
His wife, Erica Wu, had been studying for an exam scheduled for the next morning, and the couple was preparing to move to the Bay Area for new jobs, the GoFundMe stated.
“This was their final step before taking well-deserved time off together as a family prior to their relocation . . . They were about to embark on a new chapter in their lives,” the Beaudette and Wu families said in a statement. “And then it was all taken away, by a fatal gun shot in the middle of the night, in front of his two young daughters. Not a second goes by that we aren’t grappling with the senselessness of this crime.”
In less than two days, the GoFundMe account has raised more than $80,000.
Out of an abundance of caution, state park officials announced Friday that all 63 of the campsites at Malibu Creek State Park would be closed for at least the next week.