California man gets life terms for killing 8 in hair salon shooting rampage

By AMY TAXIN

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) -- A California man was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing his ex-wife and seven others in a 2011 shooting rampage at the hair salon where she worked.

Scott Dekraai, a 47-year-old former tugboat operator, received eight consecutive life terms in a courtroom packed with victims' relatives who wore buttons and shirts printed with photos of those killed. Many sobbed and spoke of their devastating loss. Others told Dekraai they hoped he would rot in prison.

Dekraai told the families he knew his words would never suffice but apologized for what he said was "a total loss of self-control."

Dekraai pleaded guilty three years ago but his case dragged on for years due to a scandal over authorities' use of informants to cull information from Dekraai and others housed in Orange County jails.

While authorities can receive information from informants, they can't have snitches deliberately seek out information from inmates with legal representation.

Dekraai's public defender, Scott Sanders, began seeking records about informants after he noticed a jailhouse informant, who had chatted up a previous client, was speaking with Dekraai. Sanders accused authorities of trying to cover up a snitch program that had trained inmates to sidle up to high-profile defendants.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals removed the county district attorney's office from the case after finding deputies lied or withheld evidence about snitches.

The state attorney general took over the prosecution and also recommended a death sentence. But when Goethals discovered that sheriff's authorities continued to refuse to turn over informant-related records, he removed capital punishment as an option, saying they had jeopardized Dekraai's right to a fair trial.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement prior to sentencing that he would abide by the judge's decision to preclude capital punishment "after thorough evaluation of the particular circumstances of this case."

"Our thoughts turn to the victims and families whose lives were shattered by this senseless act of inhumanity," Becerra said.

Dekraai pleaded guilty to eight counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, for which he received a term of seven years to life. He got 25 years to life for a gun enhancement on each of nine counts.

He had been locked in a custody dispute with ex-wife Michelle Fournier over their 8-year-old son when he entered Salon Meritage in Seal Beach wearing a bulletproof vest and armed with three weapons.

Dekraai shot and killed Fournier before turning his guns on the salon owner, stylists and customers, and a man sitting in his car in the parking lot. He was arrested within minutes of the rampage.

Relatives of the victims have been exhausted by the delays in the case. Some said they wanted prosecutors to agree to a life sentence for Dekraai to avoid years of appeals.

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