A sexual assault at a Malibu condominium left a victim traumatized and resulted in the demotion and transfer of the fourth high-level Malibu sheriff’s commander in recent history. 

Captain Matthew Vander Horck was demoted and relieved of duty on Tuesday, Feb. 18, according to a phone call to City Manager Reva Feldman by KBUU News: “We were informed that Capt. Chuck Becerra would be coming back.”

Neither Feldman nor any other of the four city managers served by the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station were consulted, she said.

Vander Horck reportedly came in for discipline after his deputies were accused of mishandling a sex-related attack at the Malibu Canyon Village condominiums on Civic Center Way on Feb. 8, when a transient walked in an unlocked door and reportedly fondled a young woman inside. 

Neighbors were infuriated the sheriff’s office did not alarm residents to the intrusion and did not seek video pictures of the assailant. According to documents provided to The Malibu Times, condo residents were initially informed of the event in a letter dated Feb. 12, which warned “an incident occurred on our property, where an intruder entered an unlocked unit. This is a reminder for everyone to be diligent and keep your doors locked.”

Sources close to the investigation said the case was flawed by a lack of evidence, and by the victim’s apparent intoxication. The victim could not be reached for comment.

The matter was festering until a Malibu tabloid publisher, Cece Woods, reportedly sent the photos and a complaint to Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who has been known to frequently consult with Woods on Malibu issues. Woods also organized campaign events for Villanueva during his long-shot campaign to win an upset in the November 2018 election. 

“Heads will roll,” Woods wrote on her website Monday. On Tuesday, Vender Horck was demoted. 

As for the crime, condo resident and Council Member Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner said deputies believe the attacker was a transient who entered the condominium complex through a hole in a perimeter fence. 

After encountering the strange man inside her condominium, the woman reportedly screamed for help, the attacker apologized, and he left. 

Sheriff’s deputies took 45 minutes to arrive and neighbors complained that officials did not believe the victim or appear to take her complaints seriously. 

Condo residents were also unhappy deputies did not collect security video that captured shots of the trespasser, or warn residents that he was in their midst more than a week after the attack.

The victim was said to be a student at Pepperdine University; however, spokespeople for the university declined the opportunity to comment on Tuesday when The Malibu Times went to print. According to images taken from security footage in the condo complex, the alleged suspect is described as a “male white adult, transient, approximately 30 years old, blonde hair, long beard, six feet tall, 170 lbs.” The suspect was still being sought Tuesday.

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