At today’s sentencing hearing for committing the worst shooting massacre in modern Orange County history, Scott Dekraai, the confessed killer of eight innocent people in a Seal Beach salon, felt the wrath of family and friends of the victims, including two who suggested he deserved daily rape when he arrives at one of California’s notorious maximum security prisons.
“I hope your new prison husband is as evil as you are,” said one speaker, who repeatedly insisted a shackled Dekraai face him as he spoke.
Others called the defendant, whose Oct. 2011 rampage stemmed from a child-custody dispute with his ex-wife who worked at the salon, “a monster,” “a selfish coward,” “a horrible, evil person” and “a piece of garbage.”
When Dekraai tried to apologize to two speakers for their losses, several people in the audience shouted him down, demanding he “shut up.”
Amidst seething anger and a threat of violence, eloquence emerged as well.
Paul Wilson, who lost his wife Christy at the Pacific Coast Highway salon, said the night before her passing she’d been transfixed on the moon’s presence, watched its path across the sky and expressed happiness with the life they’d built together.
“I was blessed to have Christy for 26 years,” Wilson told Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals.
Gordon Gallego, a salon employee who managed to barricade himself in a bathroom during the shootings, said he can’t escape horrific memories.
“The screams and gunshots still ring in my ears,” Gallego said, turning to Dekraai. “[The victims] meant nothing to you, but they were all that I had. That was my family. I hope today we can close a book nobody ever wanted to read.”
When the judge finally allowed him to speak, Dekraai labeled his actions “despicable crimes” and apologized for “the obvious pain I’ve caused.”
He said he wished, “I could turn back the hands of time . . . I was wrong for what I did. I truly am sorry.”
Lost are Victoria Buzzo, 54; David Caouette, 64; Randy Lee Fannin, 62; Michele Daschbach Fast, 47; Michelle Marie Fournier, 48; Lucia Bernice Kondas, 65; Laura Webb, 46 and Wilson’s 47-year-old wife Christy. Hattie Stretz, 73 at the time of the shooting, suffered critical injuries but survived and attended the hearing.
Though he didn’t offer any remarks, defense attorney Scott Sanders, the man who uncovered the jailhouse informant scandal, earned remarkable, perhaps unheard of praise from several victims, one of whom observed that law enforcement officials hadn’t been as dogged and professional.
Goethals, who’d already removed the death penalty as an option based on remorseless unethical acts in the case committed by prosecutors and the sheriff, eventually announced punishment: eight consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole plus an additional 232 years for gun-use enhancements and a separate seven years to life term for the attempted murder of Stretz.
“On October 12, 2011, the gates of hell flew open and you emerged as the face of evil,” the judge told the defendant. “You have forfeited your right to walk as a free man. Life in a cramped cell in a maximum-security prison, that’s what you deserve.”
Goethals, a former homicide prosecutor, addressed victims in attendance by stating, “I hope right now you are able to find some closure.”
Ordering Dekraai’s transportation to a yet-to-be-determined penitentiary, people applauded as bailiffs escorted the prisoner away.
UPDATE, 3:40 p.m.: The sheriff’s department released Dekraai to state prison authorities.
UPDATE, Sept. 23 at 1:00 p.m.: As is customary with new state inmates, Dekraai is now temporarily housed at Wasco State Prison before his transfer to a permanent home. He’s got a new name too: BE2834.
CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; obtained one of the last exclusive prison interviews with Charles Manson disciple Susan Atkins; won inclusion in Jeffrey Toobin’s The Best American Crime Reporting for his coverage of a white supremacist’s senseless murder of a beloved Vietnamese refugee; launched multi-year probes that resulted in the FBI arrests and convictions of the top three ranking members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department; and gained praise from New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing entrenched Southern California law enforcement corruption.