Relatives of the victims of the 2011 Seal Beach salon massacre solemnly announced this afternoon they want prosecutors to abandon their controversial efforts to give killer Scott Dekraai the death penalty.
The unusual move wasn't motivated by sympathy for Dekraai, who murdered eight innocent people in a shooting rampage that targeted his ex-wife and immediately confessed, but rather angst from an ever mounting desire to gain some semblance of closure to their nightmares.
Paul Wilson, whose wife Christy was among the victims, said District Attorney Tony Rackauckas' "gross mishandling" of the case—a series of unethical moves that have become known nationally as the Orange County jailhouse snitch scandal—left him "no choice" but to demand an end of the proceedings by giving Dekraai a punishment of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Because Rackauckas and his staff were recused from the case in March 2015 and Kamala Harris' California Attorney General's office fought taking over penalty phase duties, the trial has largely been on stand-by until last month when a California Court of Appeal agreed there were valid reasons for the DA's removal based on ethical concerns.
With other victims standing behind her and county supervisor Todd Spitzer plus Irvine councilman Jeff Lalloway nearby, Hattie Stretz—the lone survivor of the shooting—"strongly" urged prosecutors to accept the appellate ruling so the case can close.
After calling Dekraai "a coward," Wilson also asked the AG's office to "look at our faces" and "feel our pain" and swiftly end the case, which has produced evidence that law enforcement officials in Orange County systemically violated the constitutional rights of in-custody, pre-trial inmates, hid or destroyed evidence harmful the to the government's stances in court and repeatedly committed perjury.
"The DA's office cheated us of our loved ones' dignity and peace," he said.
Incredibly, records show police, prosecutors and deputies began unnecessarily cheating to secure a death penalty conviction against Dekraai within hours of the crime, a situation that has left Wilson baffled and angry.
Chelsea Huff, who lost her mother Michelle in the shooting, told reporters that she "just wants [the case to be] over" not for political reasons or an aversion to the death penalty but because, "It's been five year" with no conclusion in sight.
Inside Dekraai's defense camp, Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders said if the AG adheres to the victims' wishes "it would mean the end to all trial and appellate challenges" in this case.
"These victims have experienced unimaginable pain, and Mr. Dekraai recognizes that he is responsible for their suffering," Sanders said. "He remains ready to begin serving the rest of his life in prison."
Meanwhile, Thomas M. Goethals, the presiding judge in Dekraai, is expecting Sheriff Sandra Hutchens or her aides to explain on Dec. 16 why she has disobeyed his discovery orders for three years.