Prosecutors in the state Attorney General’s office announced Wednesday they will continue to seek the ultimate punishment for Scott Dekraai, the worst mass killer in Orange County’s history.
The issue had been up in the air since Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals booted the Orange County District Attorney’s Office from the case due to the way a jailhouse informant was used to ply information from the defendant. That put the case in the hands of the Attorney General.
State prosecutors also had the option of having Goethals sentence Dekraai to life in prison without the possibility of parole because he pleaded guilty on May 2, 2014, to murdering eight victims — including his ex-wife — and attempting to murder a ninth, 77-year-old Hattie Stretz, who survived the bloodbath at a Seal Beach beauty salon.
Now Dekraai will face a penalty trial before a jury to decide if he should be sentenced to life in prison without parole or the death penalty.
“This tragic event has caused so much harm to far too many families,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said. “After weighing the evidence, considering the law and the responsibilities of my office, I have concluded that the appropriate course of action is to seek the death penalty in this case.”
Dekraai’s attorney, Scott Sanders, said he was “very disappointed” in the attorney general’s decision.
“The Attorney General’s Office did not inform us directly of their decision, and we are certainly very disappointed in the path they have chosen,” Sanders told City News Service. “However, as will begin to show very soon, the misconduct that has poisoned this litigation is far more extensive than even known to the defense a few months ago. We look forward to fully adjudicating all of the issues relevant to this case.”
Goethals is preparing to schedule new evidentiary hearings in the case based on more evidence that showed how sheriff’s deputies handled informants in the jails in Dekraai’s case and that of other defendants. Dekraai is due back in court Thursday to discuss the scheduling of those hearings and other issues.
Sanders is preparing to file another motion related to the use of informants and prosecutors have indicated they will turn over evidence in the internal investigation of the District Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Department handling of the Dekraai case. Prosecutors want the evidence to be sealed.
If state prosecutors had dropped the death penalty, it would have ended Sanders’ informant scandal crusade.
Wilson’s husband has argued that prosecutors should give up on the death penalty since no one has been put to death in California in years due to legal issues with the administering of the lethal drugs. Several other family members agree with Paul Wilson, but others wanted to continue to seek capital punishment.
Dekraai had an argument with his ex-wife, 48-year-old Michelle Marie Fournier, over the phone before he went on his deadly rampage against her and the other victims at the Salon Meritage on Oct. 12, 2011.
He drove to the salon at 500 Pacific Coast Highway about 1:20 p.m., walked up to his ex-wife — with whom he was embroiled in a child support dispute — and shot her multiple times.
After he gunned down Fournier, he turned his gun on 47-year-old Christy Wilson because she had testified against him in a child support hearing.
The shop’s owner, 62-year-old Randy Lee Fannin, ran up to try to stop him with a pair of scissors, so Dekraai opened fire and killed him, as well.
“Dekraai then stated he started shooting random people inside the salon because he looked at them as collateral damage,” court papers state.
Victoria Ann Buzzo, 54, Lucia Berniece Kondas, 65, Laura Lee Elody, 46, and Michele Dashbach Fast, 47, died at the scene.
After leaving the salon, Dekraai gunned down his last victim, 64-year- old David Caouette, as the victim sat in his Range Rover, which was parked next to the gunman’s vehicle. Dekraai told investigators he thought Caouette was an off-duty or undercover police officer.
—City News Service