Scott Evans Dekraai, who committed the worst mass shooting in Orange County history at a Seal Beach beauty salon in 2011, was sentenced Friday to eight consecutive life terms in state prison without the possibility of parole, one term for each of his eight victims.
On Oct. 12, 2011, Dekraai walked into the Salon Meritage in Seal Beach and fatally shot his ex-wife Michelle Fournier and seven others: Victoria Buzzo, David Caouette, Randy Lee Fannin, Michele Daschbach Fast, Lucia Bernice Kondas, Laura Webb Elody and Christy Lynn Wilson. A ninth person, Elody’s mother Hattie Stretz, was shot but survived.
“The gates of hell flew open, and you emerged as the face of evil in this community. You inflicted more violence on the people of Seal Beach than anyone has ever inflicted in the entire history of Orange County,” Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals said to Dekraai before his sentencing.
Goethals announced the sentence, which includes another 232 years for other charges, to an emotional courtroom filled with the families and friends of the victims, as well as those who survived the shooting.
Dekraai, in a emotionless tone, gave a short statement prior to his sentencing, apologizing to the families of his victims and to his son. Several people walked out of the room before he began speaking.
“Please believe me when I say I wish I could turn back the hands of time,” Dekraai said. “I’m 100 percent accountable for all my actions, and with extreme remorse and incredible regret, I truly am sorry.”
More than a dozen people addressed the court Friday, some recounting the missed birthdays and graduations their loved ones never got to see; others who confronted Dekraai for the grief, depression and traumatic memories he has caused.
“These are the people whose lives you changed forever,” said Gordon Gallego, a stylist at the Salon Meritage who survived the shooting by barricading himself in a bathroom. “I hope they haunt you as the images you have left will haunt me for the rest of my life.”
Dekraai’s sentence comes nearly six years after he committed the murders, the end of a winding case that has dragged on because of allegations that prosecutors used an illegal informant to elicit a confession from Dekraai, despite the fact that he had already confessed to police.
That revelation transformed the case into a wide-ranging expose into the use of jailhouse informants by Orange County law enforcement, known as the jailhouse snitch scandal. It prompted Goethals in 2015 to recuse the entire Orange County District Attorney’s office from the case.
Meanwhile, delays in the disclosure of records related to informants to the court led Goethals last month to throw out the possibility of the death penalty for Dekraai, citing “chronic obstructionism” and failures to turn over evidence to the court by the DA and Sheriff’s Department.
The California Attorney General’s office, which took over prosecution of Dekraai, said it would not appeal Goethals’ decision to block them from pursuing the death penalty.
“After thorough evaluation of the particular circumstances in this case, I concluded that the California Department of Justice will abide by Judge Goethals’s ruling to preclude the death penalty in the People of the State of California v. Scott Dekraai case,” Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in statement. “Our thoughts turn to the victims and families whose lives were shattered by this senseless act of inhumanity.”
At Friday’s hearing, Goethals said his ruling had nothing to do with Dekraai personally or “the evil brutality that you inflicted on these people.”
“You should spend the rest of your life living in a cramped cell, in some forgotten corner of California. That’s what you deserve,” Goethals said.
He said that, without the misconduct of prosecutors, “I think it is extremely likely, perhaps even certain, that a jury of your peers would have convicted you, recommended I sentence you to death,” Goethals said.
The DA’s office, which sought the death penalty against Dekraai before it was recused from the case, disagreed with Goethal’s sentence in a statement released to media.
“The OCDA fought for the death penalty because it is hard to fathom how anyone who has heard Dekraai’s chilling recorded confession immediately following his arrest would think that this evil person should get anything less than the death penalty,” the statement reads.
Contact Thy Vo at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.