In light of an appellate court ruling recusing Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas' office from prosecuting the case against the worst mass killer in the county's history, the families of the victims have planned a news conference Saturday to make an announcement.
"We have an announcement to make as a group," said Paul Wilson, whose wife was among the eight murdered in Scott Evans Dekraai's rampage at a Seal Beach beauty salon five years ago.
Wilson declined to specify the nature of the announcement, but he said it was prompted by the appellate court ruling as well as news reports about another prosecutor's attempts to get the District Attorney's Office booted from a murder case against Cole Wilkins based on claims of outrageous governmental misconduct, the basis of the legal challenge in Dekraai's death penalty case.
"It looks like Rackauckas' District Attorney's Office is involved in another situation where they might be recused from a case so all of the families have collectively come to an agreement between us and we'd like to let everyone know what that agreement was," Wilson said.
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Wilson declined to say if it was on the topic of whether the death penalty should be pursued against Dekraai. In the past, the group has been split on that issue, with Wilson among the most vocal opponents of pushing for the ultimate punishment because he does not think the defendant will ever be put to death anyway.
Wilson said he does not have any objections to capital punishment. Some family members have expressed opposition to the death penalty in general.
Last week, state Sen. Janet Nguyen called on the state Attorney General's Office to continue pursuing the death penalty against Dekraai if the appellate court ruling is affirmed by the state Supreme Court.
Dekraai has pleaded guilty to the eight murders and one attempted murder in and around the beauty salon and is awaiting the penalty phase of his trial. If he is not sentenced to death he will be imprisoned for the rest of his life without the possibility of parole.
On Oct. 12, 2011, Dekraai went to the Salon Meritage at 500 Pacific Coast Highway, walked up to his ex-wife, 48-year-old Michelle Marie Fournier, and shot her multiple times.
After gunning down Fournier, he killed Wilson's 47-year-old wife, Christy, and then opened fire on 62-year-old Randy Lee Fannin.
Then Dekraai just started firing randomly at customers.
Victoria Ann Buzzo, 54, Lucia Berniece Kondas, 65, Laura Lee Elody, 46, and Michele Dashbach Fast, 47, died at the scene.
After leaving the salon, Dekraai gunned down his last victim, 64-year-old David Caouette, as the victim sat in his Range Rover, which was parked next to the gunman's vehicle. He told investigators he thought Caouette was an off-duty or undercover police officer and was reaching to his floorboard for a weapon.