Two family members of victims of the worst mass killing in Orange County history railed against the death penalty and a judge’s ruling Thursday that is likely to postpone a capital punishment trial for the defendant.
Bethany Webb, sister of Laura Lee Webb Elody, and Paul Wilson, husband of Christy Wilson, declared the criminal justice system “broken” following a ruling from Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals that booted the Orange County District Attorney’s Office from prosecuting Scott Evans Dekraai.
The ruling has been stayed until March 20 to give prosecutors time to file an appeal.
Goethals rejected a request from Dekraai’s attorney to dismiss capital punishment as an option, but Webb and Wilson said they don’t expect the defendant to be executed anyway.
Dekraai, 45, pleaded guilty May 2 to eight counts of murder and a count of attempted murder. He also admitted a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders.
Dekraai, who had been locked in a bitter child custody dispute with his ex-wife, walked into the salon and gunned down 48-year-old Michelle Fournier, before opening fire on others inside the business.
“My nightmare continues,” Wilson told reporters after the ruling. “I’m stunned, I’m angry, frustrated… It’s going to take me some time to digest. I’m still in disbelief.”
Wilson said he felt Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas failed to support him more through the process, but he praised Assistant District Attorney Dan Wagner and Senior Deputy District Attorney Scott Simmons, who were prosecuting Dekraai.
“Dan and Scott, I think, did a great job. They were handed a bad deck of cards,” Wilson said. “I know they’ve been there for me and answered my questions, even though I know I wasn’t the easiest guy to deal with.”
Wilson ripped Dekraai’s attorney, Scott Sanders.
“If he has children, how does he even tell his children what he does? It’s despicable,” Wilson said.
Wilson said he wishes Rackauckas would not appeal Goethals’ ruling so the Attorney General’s Office can take over the prosecution in the penalty phase, which will determine whether Dekraai is given life in prison without the possibility of parole or death.
“There is no better judgment that can be handed down in this case,” Wilson said of the ultimate punishment. “No doubt about it it’s a death penalty case… But the fact is we live in California and California never puts people to death and never will.
“Even to hear the words ‘death penalty,’ what does it really mean to me? It doesn’t mean I’m going to get an opportunity… to see this coward, who murdered my wife, put to death.”
Wilson said taxpayer money would be better spent on education than feeding and caring for prisoners on Death Row.
“The justice system is broken… It’s broken and it’s horrible.”
“The California taxpayers are going to pay for another two or three decades of the appeals while he dies anyhow (of natural causes) in prison,” Webb said. “Nobody is dying on Death Row. Nobody is going to be executed in California.”
The state “should join the rest of the civilized world and get rid of the death penalty,” Webb said.
Webb said Dekraai committed his crimes for “fame,” and that dragging out the legal process gives him more time on stage.
“He planned this for a long time so he could get the fame that he’s going to get right now,” Webb said. “The next time I’d like to see his face is in an obituary saying a forgotten long ago mass murder died neglected and forgotten about in a cell.”
Webb put most of the blame on sheriff’s deputies for their handling of informants in the jail. It was one informant’s relationship with Dekraai that led to the legal maneuvering that climaxed with the Orange County District’s Attorney’s recusal today.
“I’m more angry that the whole system is broken” than upset about the sheriff’s department’s “neglect,” Webb said.
Killed were the salon’s owner, Randy Lee Fannin, 62; Victoria Ann Buzzo, 54; Lucia Bernice Kondas, 65; Elody, 46; Michele Daschbach Fast, 47; Christy Wilson, 47; and David Caouette, 64, who was gunned down in his Land Rover in the parking lot outside the salon.
— City News Service