Family Member of Victims in Seal Beach Salon Shooting Wants Death Penalty Quest for Shooter Dropped

Dekraai pleaded guilty in May 2014, so the only issue to resolve is his punishment.

A family member of two of Scott Dekraai's victims appealed to state prosecutors Thursday to drop a death penalty quest against the worst mass killer in Orange County's history.

Bethany Webb made her appeal to officials from the Attorney General's Office following a hearing in Dekraai's case. Her sister, Laura Webb Elody, was among those killed in the 2011 deadly ambush at a Seal Beach beauty salon, which their mother, Hattie Stretz, survived.

Webb also told Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals during the hearing that she appealed to state prosecutors prior to Wednesday's announcement that they will continue to pursue capital punishment for Dekraai.

She said she had asked that they take the death penalty off the table and let the defendant be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"They are not doing this for my family," Webb said of the decision to keep pursuing death for Dekraai. "They're doing this to my family."

Webb said Dekraai killed eight people and attempted to kill her now 78-year-old mother because he wanted a spotlight, and will continue to get attention as state prosecutors grind out the legal proceedings.

Dekraai has pleaded guilty in May 2014, so the only issue to resolve is his punishment. A penalty trial is pending, in which a jury will determine whether he gets locked up for the rest of his life or is sent to death row.

"We won't get release from his death. This is a waste. It's unbelievable," Webb said.

She added, "We're no closer today than we were six years ago" to resolving the case against Dekraai, which is "fatally flawed and everybody knows it."

Because Dekraai has pleaded guilty, there would be no more appeals if he is sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, Webb noted to reporters after the hearing. It would also end legal proceedings regarding allegations of abuses of a jailhouse informant program that Dekraai's attorney, Scott Sanders, has pursued for the past several years.

Sanders told Goethals Thursday that he would continue to push for a dismissal of the death penalty in the case as a sanction stemming from the jailhouse informant issues. Informant Fernando Perez gave investigators information about Dekraai's comments that led prosecutors to have the defendant's cell wired.

Orange County District Attorney prosecutors wanted to use insensitive comments Dekraai made about the murders in the penalty phase of his trial, which triggered Sanders' pursuit of information about Perez, which, in turn, led to the informant scandal.

Goethals booted the District Attorney's Office from the case, leaving the Attorney General's Office in charge of prosecuting Dekraai's penalty phase.

Sanders asked Goethals for a narrowly tailored court order to bar sheriff's officials from the destruction of any records involving the jailhouse informant program, but Goethals said he has already issued a more broad order and warned that if anyone violates it, "people are going to jail, folks."

After the hearing, Webb said the death penalty in California is "beyond repair'' and questioned keeping the case against Dekraii going when no one on death row ever gets an execution date.

"The Attorney General's Office had an opportunity to be the big person in the room and acknowledge that this case is fatally flawed and can't be fixed," Webb said. "But the Attorney General's Office told us that if any case deserves it, it's this case. Well, that may have been true in October of 2011, but not any more."

Webb also opposes the death penalty in the case because she does not believe her sister would have approved of it.

"It's a slap on her to excuse murder of anyone," Webb said.

She directly implored California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to stop pursuing capital punishment for Dekraai.

"You know this is never going to happen," she told reporters. "You know it's fatally flawed. Please stop doing this to our families."

Some of the victims' family members still support the death penalty because they believe he may someday be executed, Webb said. Some just oppose the death penalty on principle, and some just don't see the point in pursuing it when it appears to be a practical impossibility at this point, she said.

Goethals said that when all of the attorneys return to court next month, they will discuss the scheduling of evidentiary hearings related to the usage of informants. Sanders' motion to dismiss the death penalty will be part of those discussions and will be decided in part based on evidence from the hearings.

Dekraai had an argument with his ex-wife, Michelle Marie Fournier, over the phone before he went on his deadly rampage against her and the other victims at the Salon Meritage on Oct. 12, 2011.

Dekraai drove to the salon at 500 Pacific Coast Highway about 1:20 p.m., walked up to his 48-year-old ex-wife -- with whom he was embroiled in a child support dispute -- and shot her multiple times.

After he gunned down Fournier, he turned his gun on 47-year-old Christy Wilson because she had testified against him in a child support hearing.

The shop's owner, 62-year-old Randy Lee Fannin, ran up to try to stop him with a pair of scissors, so Dekraai opened fire and killed him, as well, then started shooting random people inside the salon.

Elody, 46, Victoria Ann Buzzo, 54, Lucia Berniece Kondas, 65, and Michele Dashbach Fast, 47, died at the scene.

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 outside the salon. Dekraai told investigators he thought Caouette was an off-duty or undercover police officer.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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