(FOX 11 / CNS) The man who gunned down eight people, including his ex-wife, at a Seal Beach salon in the worst mass killing in Orange County history pleaded guilty today to eight counts of murder.
"It is the right thing to do, your honor," Scott Dekraai told Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals. Goethals told Dekraai: "After today, you will not be an alleged killer anymore. You will be a convicted murderer, do you understand that?"
"That's very clear, your honor," Dekraai responded. Despite his guilty plea, Dekraai still faces a possible death sentence. A jury will eventually be chosen to recommend if he should be put to death or spend the rest of his life in prison for the massacre at the Salon Meritage in Seal Beach on Oct. 12, 2011.
Dekraai, 44, announced Monday that he wished to enter a guilty plea instead of going through a trial, which was scheduled for June. The plea clears the way for his defense attorneys to continue their focus on an evidentiary hearing alleging widespread governmental misconduct in the case of Dekraai and multiple other defendants over the way investigators collected evidence with help from jailhouse snitches.
Dekraai's attorney, Scott Sanders of the Orange County Public Defender's Office, said his client wanted to plead guilty to spare the victims' families from enduring a trial. Dekraai told investigators after his arrest that he and his ex-wife, 48-year-old Michelle Fournier, had been in court less than a week before the shooting in an ongoing child custody dispute, according to police records.
Fournier's attorney said it was an uneventful hearing. The two shared custody of the boy, but Dekraai wanted to make all of the decisions about his son's schooling and health, Fournier's attorney, John Cate Jr., said after the shootings. On the morning of the shooting, the two got into an argument over the phone about the dispute, prompting Dekraai to arm himself with three handguns and ammunition and put on a bulletproof vest, according to police records.
Dekraai did not go directly to the beauty salon where his ex-wife worked. Instead, he stopped at Bolsa Chica State Beach where he "pondered" killing his ex-wife, according to police. When Dekraai made up his mind, he drove to the Salon Meritage and shot Fournier first before turning his aim to multiple others in the shop, including one of Fournier's friends, who had testified against him in the court battle, according to police.
One witness testified before a grand jury that Dekraai calmly left the Salon Meritage after the shootings. "He had zero expression on his face," witness Kenneth Caleb told the grand jury, adding Dekraai walked in a "casual calm stroll, as if you were just enjoying the park."
Dekraai fatally shot seven in the salon and then David Caouette, 64, in his Land Rover parked outside the salon. In addition to Dekraai's ex-wife, the other victims were the salon's owner, Randy Lee Fannin, 62; Victoria Ann Buzzo, 54; Lucia Bernice Kondas, 65; Michele Daschbach Fast, 47; Laura Lee Webb Elody, 46, and Christy Wilson, 47. Hattie Stretz, 75, survived her injuries.
Dekraai was indicted in January 2012 on eight counts of murder with special circumstances for committing multiple murders as well as a count of attempted murder.