Victim Identified in Bluffs Park Murder, as Homeless Violence Makes Headlines

LA County District Attorney seal

The victim in the alleged murder that took place in Malibu Bluffs Park has been identified.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office confirmed that the “John Doe,” whose remains were found in the park in January, was Alexander Wharton. Sheriff’s officials described Wharton as a 47-year-old white man. Earlier reports indicated he was homeless at the time of his murder.

Last month, sheriff’s officials investigating the case arrested Eduardo Ray Nuñez, 39, and charged him with one count of murder. 

The DA’s office said investigators have placed the date of the crime on or around Dec. 31, 2017, meaning remains were in the park for approximately one month before being discovered by a park visitor on Jan. 30 of this year.

Nuñez, who was also described by sheriff’s officials as homeless, will be arraigned in Van Nuys on May 10. 

If the murder did take place at the end of December, that was only one month after a 22-year-old homeless man stole a vehicle and used it to strike and kill a man by the name of Juan Antonio Castillo on Pacific Coast Highway here in Malibu. Sheriff’s records officially marked that crash as a “homicide” in citywide crime statistics—the first such crime recorded in Malibu in more than five years.

Last month, a young father was stabbed in the neck—apparently at random, in a public restaurant, in front of his family with his own daughter on his lap—just up the coast in Ventura. The suspect charged with that murder is a homeless man who had been living in the Ventura area.

At the end of 2017, it was reported an estimated 58,000 homeless individuals are now living in shelters, on the streets and in encampments in Los Angeles County—enough to populate a midsize city unto itself.

By all accounts, homeless populations have become both more numerous and more visible in Southern California in recent years.

Concerns over homelessness are nothing new here in Malibu. Back in November, these concerns culminated in the cancellation of weekly homeless dinners—and the media circus that followed. Now, up in Ventura, these issues are beginning to boil over, with residents organizing demonstrations, marches and petition drives. So, is anything changing when it comes to enforcement here in Malibu? Our local sheriff’s station provided a brief statement saying they continue to be “proactive in their approach” to enforcement when it comes to homeless populations.

“We have always had concerns regarding the safety of the homeless population and the general public with whom they interact on a daily basis,” Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Captain Josh Thai said in a prepared statement to The Malibu Times this week. “We are proactive in our approach, and we respond to all calls for service regarding the homeless. However, as we have publicly stated in the recent past, we work within the constraints of the constitution, the mental health system, and the state and local laws available to us. In addition, we are working closely with all stakeholders, including community members, on long-term solutions related to the homeless population.”

Sheriff’s department spokesperson Lt. James Royal also pointed to statements made before city council in mid-November. 

At the time, Royal indicated an overall consistency in crime patterns in Malibu, despite residents at the time suggesting crime was up.

“We’re happy with the numbers in general of crime statistics in Malibu,” Royal described at the November 2017 meeting. “There’s a lot of rumor … there’s a lot of innuendo of an explosion of crime.”

The investigation into the alleged murder in Malibu Bluffs Park is still ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to report it to the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station at 818.878.1808.