Seal Beach hair salon massacre suspect to plead guilty to 8 slayings

Scott Dekraai will still have to stand trial in the penalty phase over the 2011 killings. He faces a possible death penalty.

April 28, 2014|By Paloma Esquivel, Los Angeles Times

The man accused of gunning down eight people at a Seal Beach hair salon in 2011 will plead guilty to eight counts of special circumstances murder and one count of attempted murder, his lawyer said Monday.

Scott Dekraai, who, according to prosecutors, was seeking revenge on his ex-wife when he opened fire at the Salon Meritage, has "felt for a while that he really needs to give at least the victims the sense that he's not seeking to have this go on forever," said his lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders.

"He thinks he owes to them at least the knowledge that he's willing to accept responsibility."

There is substantial evidence in the Oct. 12, 2011, shooting: Dekraai was arrested after he was driving away from the scene and soon confessed to investigators, according to court records. Dekraai had been involved in a custody dispute with his ex-wife, Michelle Fournier, who worked at the salon and was one of those killed, prosecutors said.


He still faces what will probably be a long trial to determine whether he receives the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. California defendants cannot use a plea agreement to accept death.

Dekraai had previously offered to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without parole, but that offer was rejected by the Orange County district attorney's office because prosecutors refused to drop the death penalty. The guilt portion of his trial is set to begin June 9.

The intended plea does not involve a negotiated agreement for leniency, and prosecutors said little had changed as a result of it.

"The battle in this case has always been the penalty phase," said Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Scott Simmons.

Dekraai's trial, which like many death penalty cases has been slow to start, has been delayed even longer as the court examines defense allegations of the improper use of jailhouse informants in this case and others.

Since mid-March, the court has heard testimony from prosecutors, law enforcement and informants as it examines whether jailhouse informants were, as the defense says, repeatedly deployed in violation of the constitutional rights of Dekraai and other defendants, and information routinely kept from defense attorneys.

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