Andrew Luster: Where is the Rapist Now?

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The arrest of Andrew Luster in 2000, charged with sexual assault, garnered significant media attention. As the great-grandson of Max Factor Sr., a prominent figure in the cosmetics industry, his case sparked widespread interest. Subsequently, an extensive legal saga ensued, especially with him fleeing and ultimately being apprehended in Mexico. In 2003, as indicated in the ‘Evil Lives Here’ episode titled ‘I Saw Myself on Tape’ on Investigation Discovery, he was thus sentenced to prison.

Who is Andrew Luster?

Born on December 15, 1963, Andrew Luster hails from a wealthy and opulent family residing in Malibu, California. His father, Henry Luster, worked as a psychiatrist, while his mother, Elizabeth Luster, was the daughter of one of Max Factor Sr.’s daughters. The latter was the renowned founder of the cosmetics conglomerate Max Factor & Company and stood as one of the industry’s most prominent figures. It hence comes as no surprise that while growing up Luster experienced a life devoid of scarcity or want, immersed in the privileges afforded by his family’s prosperity.

Upon graduating from Windward School in Los Angeles, Luster decided to relocate to Mussel Shoals, California, where he lived off his trust fund. His family’s affluence enabled him to reside in a luxurious beach cottage, fostering a lifestyle full of leisure and indulgence. However, the spotlight on Luster intensified in July of 2000 when a woman, now identified as Shawna Doe, contacted the police.

Shawna, a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, made allegations stating that during a night out with a male friend, Luster approached them and offered drinks. She claimed that after consuming the drinks, she began feeling more intoxicated than anticipated and had difficulty recalling the events of the evening thereafter. She remembered that some more friends joined her and Luster and after visiting the Mussel Shoals pier, all of them had made their way to the latter’s home.

She said that she remembered being put in the shower by Luster who had then proceeded to force himself on her. Despite her resistance, he had sexually assaulted her. The police immediately checked up with the male friend who had accompanied Shawna and was able to corroborate her claims. Consequently, the police executed a search warrant at Luster’s house and found extensive incriminating evidence against him. They found weapons, drugs, and a lot of pictures of different naked girls. They also found videos of him raping different women who were heavily intoxicated and unconscious. Luster was hence immediately arrested, but he was able to post bail.

Luster was then put on house arrest while the police started building their case, aka while he awaited trial. They tried finding more women who would be willing to come forward with their personal accounts of the sexual assault they had experienced at his hands. This is when they came across Tonja Balden as well as a woman who is legally identified as Carey Doe. Per records, 23-year-old Tonja had met Luster at a nightclub in October of 1996 when she was visiting her younger sister at UCSB. The two of them had started talking and she found him to be quite easy-going and conversible. She hence stayed with him for five days before eventually moving in altogether. Their relationship lasted for about four months but she recalled seeing pictures of women in bikinis hanging in his laundry room. She said that it was after the break-up that he had started harassing her.

When Tonja was shown pictures and videos of herself being sexually assaulted while unconscious, she remembered she had actually passed out on their very first night together. Though, she continued, the next morning Luster had told her nothing transpired between them, which she believed without any issues since  she still had her clothes on from the night before. After seeing her videos, she was horrified to learn the truth, yet she still somehow proudly gathered the courage and strength to testify against him in court.

Similarly, Carey Doe, who was a student at UCSB, told the police that she’d been drinking heavily in a nightclub in July 2000 when she met Luster by pure change. According to her formal statements, she’d started feeling quite intoxicated after taking a glass of water from him, and then she ended up going to his house with some other friends. As per court records, Luster then assaulted her multiple times against her will and she was unable to put him off physically. Other women such as Claudine Espinoza and her younger sister, Francoise have also reported similar encounters, and their ID cards and credit cards were found in Luster’s home.

Andrew Luster is Still in Prison

Andrew Luster’s trial commenced in December 2002, during which many victims bravely came forward to testify about their harrowing ordeals. Their testimony significantly strengthened the case against him. However, as winter break approached, the trial was adjourned. Despite prosecutors’ concerns and requests for stricter measures, Luster was granted bail and fitted with an ankle bracelet. In January 2003, when the trial resumed, it came to light he had fled. In his absence, he was convicted and sentenced to 124 years in prison. He had been found guilty on 86 criminal charges which included rape of an unconscious person, sodomy, poisoning, and drug possession.

He was also ordered to pay a total of $40 million to two of his victims after they had won their civil lawsuits against him. Following his escape, Andrew Luster became the subject of an intense FBI manhunt spanning across the nation and its borders, resulting in a warrant issued for his arrest. Then, in June 2003, American bounty hunter Duane “Dog” Chapman apprehended Luster in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He was subsequently extradited to the United States and incarcerated under the California Department of Corrections. In 2013, Luster’s legal team filed a petition for habeas corpus, leading to a new sentence hearing. In April of that year, his sentence was reduced to 50 years.

In 2016, California Proposition 57 was enacted, which aimed to address prison overcrowding and increase opportunities for rehabilitation within the criminal justice system. One of its provisions redefined what constituted “violent crimes,” leading to concerns among Andrew Luster’s victims and prosecutors that some of his offenses might no longer fall under this classification. This raised fears that Luster could potentially apply for early release. However, despite these changes, Luster, now 60 years old, remains incarcerated at Valley State Prison in Chowchilla, California. In 2022, his parole hearing was denied for three years. But then, in January 2024, a review to advance his next parole hearing was approved, resulting in his upcoming parole suitability hearing to be scheduled for August 2024.

Read More: Matthew Muller: Where is the Convicted Rapist Now?