Vikki Vargas/Kevin Dahlgren
Scott Dekraai pleaded guilty Friday to all charges in the 2011 Seal Beach massacre. He could still face the death penalty, but some relatives say this doesn't heal the pain. Vikki Vargas reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 2, 1014.
Family members of the victims in Orange County's worst mass killing reacted Friday to the man who pleaded guilty to committing the crime.
Scott Dekraai, 44, entered his plea to killing his ex-wife and six others at the Salon Meritage in Seal Beach where his ex-wife worked and gunning down an eighth victim nearby.
He also pleaded guilty to the special circumstance of multiple murders, making him eligible for the death penalty.
"I would love him instead of having a nice overdose -- I'd like him to find a more eye-for-an-eye sort of demise in general population," said Bethany Webb, whose sister, Laura, died in the massacre.
Dekraai first pleaded guilty to killing his 48-year-old ex-wife, Michelle Fournier, and then admitted turning his gun on her friend and client, Christy Wilson.
As he entered his plea on Wilson, her husband, Paul Wilson, cast his gaze downward and rubbed his brow.
"Just another dose of reality that this happened to her and I'm going through this," Wilson said later, when asked what he was thinking as Dekraai acknowledged killing his wife. "Actually hearing her name and 'guilty' makes it very real," Wilson said.
"Today we have a significant bit of closure."
Wilson said though he wishes Dekraai would get the death penalty, it's more likely the defendant will die in prison of natural causes, so he favors life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said he is undeterred in his efforts to put Dekraai on death row.
"I'm certainly not going to change my opinion on seeking the death penalty in this case," Rackauckas told reporters after the hearing.
In court, Dekraai told Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals as he entered his plea that "it is the right thing to do, your honor."
Goethals told Dekraai: "After today, you will not be an alleged killer anymore. You will be a convicted murderer, do you understand that?"
"That's very clear, your honor," Dekraai responded.
Dekraai had been locked in a custody dispute with his ex-wife over their 8-year-old son before he strapped on a bulletproof vest, took three guns and entered the salon on Oct. 12, 2011, police said.
He was accused of shooting his ex-wife, a hairdresser, before killing the Seal Beach salon's owner and six others.
Eight people were shot inside the salon, and all but one died. A man sitting in his car in the parking lot was also gunned down.
Minutes later, Dekraai was stopped by police and arrested.
He told the officer "I know what I did," according to police.
Defense lawyer Scott Sanders told an Orange County court during a hearing Monday that his client would enter the plea.
Dekraai, a former tugboat operator who lived in nearby Huntington Beach, had previously offered to plead guilty in exchange for multiple life sentences but prosecutors refused to drop the death penalty from consideration.
Sanders, an assistant public defender, wants to have the death penalty tossed out and to have the district attorney's office recuse itself because of recordings made by a fellow inmate that prosecutors characterized as Dekraai bragging about the killings.
The district attorney's office agreed last week to drop efforts to use the recordings in court proceedings.
The salon reopened about a year after the shootings that rocked the sleepy beach city. Six of the original employees, including the owner's widow, returned to work.
For more than two years, relatives of the victims have trekked to the Orange County courthouse in Santa Ana for hearings on the case.
Fournier's brother, Butch, said the defendant's son is doing well.Fournier's daughter, Chelsea, who is helping to raise the boy, agreed, saying, "He's just a really happy kid. He just loves life."
In addition to Dekraai's ex-wife and Caouette, the victims were the salon's owner, Randy Lee Fannin, 62; Victoria Ann Buzzo, 54; Lucia Bernice Kondas, 65; Michele Daschbach Fast, 47; Laura Lee Webb Elody, 46, and Christy Wilson, 47.