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Prosecutors seek death penalty in salon shooting case

Courtroom spectators shout at accused gunman Scott Dekraai, whose arraignment is rescheduled for Nov. 29

October 15, 2011|By Nicole Santa Cruz and Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times
  • Shooting suspect Scott Dekraai looks at his attorney Robert Curtis during a hearing on Friday.
Shooting suspect Scott Dekraai looks at his attorney Robert Curtis during… (Mark Boster/Los Angeles…)

A string of angry shouts, including "I hate you! I hate you!" tore through a packed Santa Ana courtroom Friday as the man accused of killing eight people and wounding a ninth at a Seal Beach beauty salon made his first court appearance.

The defendant, Scott Dekraai, showed no emotion amid taunts from the spectators, who included dozens of the victims' family members and friends.

Prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty against Dekraai, who is charged with eight felony counts of special circumstance first-degree murder, and one felony count of attempted murder in connection with the worst mass killings in Orange County history.

As Dekraai, 41, was led into the courtroom, some in the audience cried and one man shouted "coward!"

When attorney Robert Curtis asked Orange County Superior Court Judge Erick L. Larsh for a continuance to assemble a defense team, one man in the gallery buried his head in his hands.

Curtis also told Larsh that a medical order is needed so that Dekraai can receive his antipsychotic medication, and to have a spinal cord stimulator to help control the defendant's chronic pain.

The judge ordered a medical evaluation of the defendant, who is being held without bail, and continued the arraignment to Nov. 29.

That fueled an already tense scene, as some family members held hands and others clutched photos of those who died in Wednesday's shootings at Salon Meritage. Among those in attendance was Butch Fournier, the brother of Michelle Marie Fournier, Dekraai's 48-year-old ex-wife, who worked at the salon and is believed to have been his primary target.

She and Dekraai divorced in 2007 but were locked in a custody battle for their 8-year-old son. Authorities said Dekraai had talked early Wednesday with Fournier, who was among the people shot to death.

Outside the courtroom, Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas said he expected mental health would be part of the defense strategy.

"I won't be surprised if we get an insanity plea," he said.

Hours earlier, in an emotional news conference, Rackauckas released new details about the attack, painting a horrifying scene in which people were playing dead and trying to hide anywhere they could.

There were about 20 people in the salon at the time, he said, adding that Dekraai came "prepared to commit murder."

"Wearing a bulletproof vest and armed with three firearms, he walked through the salon shooting anyone close enough to hit," Rackauckas said. "He stopped to reload, and then continued gunning people down. He was not satisfied with murdering his intended target, his ex-wife.

"For almost two minutes, Dekraai shot victim after victim, executing eight people by shooting them in the head and chest," he added. "He was not done. He then walked out of the salon and shot a ninth victim, a male, who was sitting nearby in a parked Range Rover.

"The reason for this rampage? Revenge."

Rackauckas also said that Dekraai believed that some of the salon employees were "enablers" in the custody battle.

"While Dekraai rampaged through the hair salon shooting at innocent victims, the son he professed to love was sitting in the principal's office … waiting for his mom or dad to pick him up," a visibly tearful Rackauckas said. "That little boy is also a victim. He is now left to mourn the murder of his mother, and grow up with the knowledge that his father committed a mass murder. What sick, twisted fatherly love is this?"

The others killed were the salon's owner, Randy Lee Fannin, 62; Victoria Ann Buzzo, 54; David Caouette, 64; Laura Lee Elody, 46; Michele Daschbach Fast, 47; Lucia Bernice Kondas, 65; and Christy Lynn Wilson, 47.

The sole survivor, Hattie Stretz, 73, remained in critical condition at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. "She was at the salon that afternoon getting her hair done by her daughter, Laura Elody, who was murdered," Rackauckas said.

Acting Seal Beach Police Chief Tom Olson said Dekraai was armed with handguns — a 9-millimeter Springfield, a Heckler & Koch .45, and a Smith & Wesson .44 magnum — "and wore body armor because he did not want to be shot by police."

Officials said Dekraai used at least two handguns in the attack and did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Dekraai had a troubled background, according to relatives and court documents. A tugboat accident off El Segundo in 2007 left him facing multiple surgeries. Once trim and muscular, he became overweight. He was also paying $1,500 a month in child support.

Before Friday's hearing, Butch Fournier said of the death penalty charges, "It is fine with me," adding that his sister "was just a loving, caring person. She didn't have a bad thing about her."

In Seal Beach, where people added to a memorial outside the salon, word of the charges that Dekraai is facing drew expressions of relief.

The suspect "put together a plan and then murdered my friends and friends of this community," said Judy Rodriguez Watson, co-owner of the Bay City Center, where the salon is located. "He should be punished with the death penalty."

nicole.santacruz@latimes.com

louis.sahagun@latimes.com

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