[UPDATED with OC Public Defender Getting Dekraai Case:] 6 Women and 2 Men, OC Homicides Nos. 45-52: Massacred at Beauty Salon

UPDATE, OCT. 24, 3:05 P.M.: Orange County Superior Court Judge Erick L. Larsh this afternoon assigned the defense of Scott Evans Dekraai to the Orange County Public Defender's office. The lead attorney (at taxpayers' dime) will now be senior Deputy Public Defender Scott Sanders. Dekraai's original defense attorney, Robert Curtis, told Larsh he specializes in family law, having represented the accused in previous divorce and custody proceedings. Curtis, of Jarvis & Krieger of Long Beach, added that Dekraai cannot afford a private law firm for an expensive death-penalty trial.

See the reaction to this development from the husband of one murder victim after the jump . . .

Telling television news reporters gathered outside the courtroom that he was not surprised "that someone does not want to stand up there and defend this coward," the late Christie Wilson's husband Paul Wilson observed, "What we do need to remember and what is news today is that over the past week we have had to say goodbye to eight very loving people who were mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. That should be the news, not what happened here."

UPDATE, OCT. 24, 12:37 P.M.: Seal Beach hair salon massacre suspect Scott Evans Dekraai has not even had his full court arraignment yet and his defense attorneys already want off the case.

The Jarvis & Krieger firm in Long Beach will ask Judge Erick L. Larsh to find another defenders for the accused worst mass killer in Orange County history at an Orange County Superior Court hearing this afternoon.

The reason for the request is expected to be revealed at that hearing.

Deputy District Attorney Scott Simmons tells Fox 11 News he has not been told why Jarvis & Krieger wants off the case, but he speculates it could be because the firm cannot afford to conduct a death-penalty trial. If a defendant is found guilty in such a trial, a second phase to determine if he or she deserves the ultimate penalty then begins, and it is often as long and expensive in man hours as the guilty phase.

At Dekraai's Oct. 14 arraignment hearing, which at the request of defense attorney Robert Curtis was continued to Nov. 29 so he would have more time to prepare, the lawyer asked Judge Erick L. Larsh to order jail officials to give his client a prescribed anti-psychotic medicine and access to a "spinal cord stimulator" he has needed since his 2007 boat accident. Larsh instead ordered a medical evaluation of Dekraai to see what medicine he might need, leaving it up to the Orange County Sheriff's Department jailers to decide what was appropriate.

Some, including District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, believe the anti-psychotic medicine request maybe part of the defense laying the foundation for an insanity plea.


Courtesy of the Orange County District Attorney's Office
Scott Evans Dekraai: laughing all the way to Death Row?
UPDATE, OCT. 14, 3:14 P.M.: On Fridays, we like to post the ugliest police mugshot of the week. Seal Beach mass murder suspect Scott Evans Dekraai has made it real easy. Look at that fucker, laughing into the camera, after [yes, allegedly] taking his 8-year-old son's mother away from him, ensuring that boy will forever live with the stigma of what his father has done [yes, allegedly] and heading for a possible place on California's Death Row. Ugly, ugly, ugly.

Orange County, we have found our Halloween monster.

Was he drunk or under the influence of illegal or prescription meds while he apparently carried out the deadliest shooting in OC history? Nope, says the district attorney, he was clean. His victims and would-be victims cowered in fear, played dead and tried to hide as the gunman methodically walked through the salon and fired his weapons, even stopping once to reload.


Dekraai's arraignment this afternoon was continued to 8:30 a.m. Nov. 29 in Santa Ana. He entered no plea. His attorney Robert Curtis said the jail where he is being held without bail has denied him his anti-psychotic medications Trazadome and Topamax. Judge Erick L. Larsh ordered a medical review to determine what medications Dekraai needs.

Relatives of victims and others at the Santa Ana courtroom yelled "coward" and "I hate you" at Dekraai before and after the proceedings. Curtis indicated he will file a motion seeking a change of venue.

The alleged killer's son is said to be safe with family members. A fund has been set up for victims' families. Visit www.salonmeritagefund.org.

The Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) has cleaned up its earlier statement published in full in the previous update to reflect the correct spelling of Dekraai's middle name, the correct date for the crime (it was transposed in a statement from acting Seal Beach Police Chief Tim Olson), and the fact that murder victim Michele Fast was a salon client, not an employee. Hopefully, I've caught all such errors throughout this getting-longer post; if you catch any I missed tell me in the comments or email me at mcoker@ocweekly.com.

UPDATE, OCT. 14, 11:52 A.M.: Standing alongside Seal Beach's acting Police Chief Tim Olson, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas began this morning's emotional press conference in his Santa Ana office by saying, "Oct. 12, 2011, is a day that should never have been visited on the peaceful community of Seal Beach, California. The people of our community were made victims of a bloody massacre by a methodical and merciless killer." He would go on to disclose he will seek the death penalty for Scott Evans Dekraai.

Rackauckas called the violence "senseless" and accused Dekraai of forever changing the lives of the victims' families. "They will forever be left with a missing place in their hearts," he said, "and a missing chair at their Thanksgiving tables."

Scott Evans Dekraai
The DA then announced he was filing eight felony counts of special circumstances murder and one count of attempted murder against Dekraai, who is being held without bail at Orange County Jail and is expected to be arraigned this afternoon.

Saying his office is still investigating, Rackauckas said he believes that the evidence will ultimately show Dekraai just after 1:20 p.m. Wednesday walked into Salon Meritage "prepared to commit murder." He was packing three firearms--which Olson later identified as a Springfield 9mm, a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum, and and H&K .45-caliber handgun--when he walked through the salon "shooting anyone close enough to hit," Rackauckas said.

"He stopped to reload during his spree," the DA added.

He accused Dekraai of not being satisfied with killing his intended target, his ex-wife Michelle Fournier, spending two minutes "executing" people in the salon by shooting them in the heads and chests. Rackauckas added the killer was not done, shooting Dave Caouette sitting in his SUV in the parking lot for reasons unknown.

Rackauckas said the motive was "revenge."

"Clearly, this two-minute murder spree could not have been about loving his son," Rackuckas said. "Eight irreplaceable lives were callously snuffed out like collateral damage. We will not forget any one of these people. Their lives mattered. We will seek justice to the best of our ability."

He then ran down each victim's name and age. The DA had trouble keeping his composure as he talked about Dekraai and Fournier's 8-year-old son (originally reported as age 7). At the time of the senseless shooting, "the son he professed to love was sitting in the principal's office . . . waiting for his mom or dad to pick him up," Rackauckas said, choking up. "That little boy is a victim. . . . Now his mother has been murdered, and he has to grow up knowing his dad is a mass murderer. So what kind of sick and twisted fatherly love might that be."

The DA then explained his usual method of convening a committee in special-circumstances murder cases so that he and veteran prosecutors can decide appropriate punishment, up to and including the death penalty.

"Some cases are so depraved, so callous and so malignant that that there's only one punishment that might fit the crime," Rackauckas said in explainging why there is no need to convene a panel in this case. "I will of course seek the death penalty."

Olson, who frequently referred to Dekraai as a "coward," disclosed his department had contact with the suspect over the past two months, including an alleged violation of his visitation agreement.

Taking questions from the reporters, Rackauckas also cleared up reports about whether Fournier had recently taken out a restraining order against Dekraai, saying his office has seen no such information. There was an attempt to take out such an order in 2007, the DA said, but the process was not completed.

The OCDA statement on the charges follows:

October 14, 2011

Case # 11CF2781


SANTA ANA - The Orange County District Attorney announced today that he will seek the death penalty against a man charged with committing the largest mass-murder in Orange County history. The Seal Beach Police Department (SBPD) investigated this case.

Scott Evans Dekraai, 41, Huntington Beach, is charged with eight felony counts of special circumstances murder for committing multiple murders and one felony count of attempted murder. He is being held without bail and is scheduled to be arraigned today, Friday, Oct. 14, 2011, at 1:30 p.m. in Department C-55, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.

"There are some crimes that are so depraved, so callous, so malignant, that there is only one punishment that will fit the crime. When a person, in a case such as this, goes on a rampage and kills innocent people in an indiscriminate bloody massacre, I will seek the death penalty," said Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. "The circumstances of this case are so terrible and incomprehensible that the aggravating factors overwhelm any possible mitigation."

 "The murders that occurred on October 12 are by far the most horrific tragedy in our city's history. This incident will forever impact the lives of so many of us, who live, work and visit our great community," said Seal Beach Acting Chief of Police Tim Olson. "I am proud of the swift and effective action of the men and women of the Seal Beach Police Department as well as the assistance we received from so many of our law enforcement partners, for which we are grateful."

Death Penalty Decision
In the majority of special circumstances murder cases, the District Attorney convenes a special circumstances committee consisting of the District Attorney, the Senior Assistant and Assistant District Attorney in charge of the Homicide Unit, and other prosecutors experienced in capital cases after an indictment or preliminary hearing. The committee discusses the defendant's record, the nature of the crime, and the vulnerability of the victim, among other factors.  The committee also considers mitigating circumstances from the defense attorney.  The final decision to pursue the death penalty rests on the District Attorney.

In certain extreme cases, such as mass murders, the District Attorney may decide to seek the death penalty without the necessity of a special circumstances committee. The aggravating circumstances in these cases far outweigh any possible mitigating circumstances.

Based on the violent and indiscriminate nature of this crime, the District Attorney determined that the committee was unnecessary in his decision to seek the death penalty.

Circumstances of the Crime
On the morning of Oct. 12, 2011, Dekraai is accused of getting into a verbal argument on the phone with his ex-wife, 48-year-old Michelle Marie Fournier, over a custody dispute regarding their 8-year-old son.

At approximately 1:20 p.m. on Oct. 12, 2011, Dekraai is accused of entering Salon Meritage, located on the 500 block of Pacific Coast Highway in Seal Beach, where his ex-wife worked as a hair stylist. The defendant is accused of wearing a bullet-proof vest under his clothing and arming himself with three firearms before walking into the salon with the intention of murdering his ex-wife and other people who may have been present. Approximately 15 people were inside at the time.

At 1:21 p.m. Dekraai is accused of walking through the salon and executing employees and customers at random, as well as Fournier, by shooting them at close range in the head and chest. The firearms included a 9 MM Springfield, Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum, and a Heckler & Koch .45.

He is accused of shooting several of the victims multiple times using two of the firearms as they lay dying, stopping to reload when his ammunition ran out. The shooting lasted approximately two minutes.

The other people inside the salon attempted to escape by hiding, locking themselves in private treatment rooms, or running outside. Dekraai is accused of shooting eight people inside the salon.

Six of the eight victims inside the salon were pronounced dead at the scene. The two other victims were transported to Long Beach Memorial Medical Center in critical condition. One of those victims died that afternoon at the hospital. The eighth victim remains in critical condition.

The seven murdered victims from inside the salon include (in alphabetical order): Victoria Ann Buzzo, 54, Laguna Beach, salon employee; Laura Lee Elody, 46, Huntington Beach, salon employee; Randy Lee Fannin, 62, Murrieta, salon owner; Michele Daschbach Fast, 47, Seal Beach, salon client; Michelle Marie Fournier, 48, Los Alamitos, salon employee; Lucia Bernice Kondas, 65, Huntington Beach, salon client; and Christy Lynn Wilson, 47, Lakewood, salon employee.

Victim Harriet Stretz, 73, Los Alamitos, is in critical condition. She was a salon client having her hair done by her daughter, victim Elody.

After his murderous shooting rampage inside the salon, Dekraai is accused of walking out of the salon. As he approached his white Toyota Tundra pick-up truck to flee the scene, the defendant is accused of observing a dark sport utility vehicle parked nearby with a male seated in the driver's seat. Dekraai is accused of approaching the victim, who was alone in his car, and executing him by shooting him in the head through the closed front passenger side window.

This victim was David Caouette, 64, Seal Beach.

An SBPD officer, who was nearby in the neighborhood, was the first to arrive at the scene in response to a 911 call from a person in the restaurant next door to the salon. Witnesses pointed the officer to the defendant's vehicle as Dekraai attempted to drive away.

SBPD dispatch received information from the 911 caller at 1:25:36 p.m. that the defendant was driving away from the scene. At 1:26:07 p.m., only 30 seconds later, the defendant was stopped by SBPD in an emergency traffic stop.

Officers from SBPD yelled for the defendant to exit his vehicle with their guns drawn. Dekraai is accused of getting out of his car, getting down on his knees, placing his hands behind his head, and was arrested.  At the time of his arrest, Dekraai is accused of being in possession of the three firearms and a significant amount of ammunition in his truck.

Dekraai was booked at the Seal Beach City Jail and was later transported to the Orange County Jail.

The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with additional information is encouraged to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Randy Litwin at (714) 347-8492 or SBPD Detective Gary Krogman at (562) 799-4100 ext.1108.

The OCDA and SBPD would like to thank the following law enforcement agencies for their response to the scene and assistance in the investigation: Anaheim Police Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, California Highway Patrol, Cypress Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Huntington Beach Fire Department, Huntington Beach Police Department, La Palma Police Department, Long Beach Police Department, Los Alamitos Police Department, OCDA Bureau of Investigation, Orange County Fire Authority, Orange County Sheriff's Department, and Westminster Police Department..

UPDATE, OCT. 14, 11:17 A.M.: An emotional District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, breaking down several times at the press conference podium in his Santa Ana office, just announced he will seek the death penalty for Scott Evans Dekraai, the alleged deadliest killer in Orange County history.

Noting that he normally convenes a committee before making such call, Rackauckas said "of course I will seek the death penalty" due to the "terrible" and "incomprehensible" crime.

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