A vigil to honor the eight shooting victims of last year’s massacre at Salon Meritage in Seal Beach is set for Thursday, the day before the one year anniversary of the worst mass killing in Orange County history.
Families, friends and neighbors will gather near the Seal Beach Pier on Thursday to remember the salon co-owner, stylists and clients who died when Scott Evans Dekraai allegedly opened fire in the shop on the afternoon of Oct. 12, 2011, apparently spurred by an acrimonious divorce and custody dispute with one of the salon’s stylists.
Dekraai pleaded not guilty late last year to killing his ex-wife and seven others. His trial was set to start in mid-October.
Almost everyone in or near the city of 24,000 has a story to tell about where they were or how the tragedy affected them.
"My co-worker went into work, a couple of hours after, and she said, 'You know, it's amazing. I actually had a hair appointment that day and for some reason I missed it,'" said Leslie Martinez, of Downey.
The one-year anniversary comes on the heels of litigation on behalf of the salon’s widowed co-owner.
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Salon Meritage co-owner and hair stylist Sandi Fannin was in the salon when her husband, Randy, was murdered. This week, her attorney sued Employers Mutual Casual Insurance Company in Orange County Superior Court alleging insensitivity and underpayment.
"They essentially put a time limit on Sandi's grieving," said attorney Howard Shernoff. "By asking her if she wants to get paid her benefits for business interruption, to get back to work in 30 days after the massacre, while the police tape was even still up, you know, all the blood was still fresh."
Published reports say Employers Mutual won't comment on pending litigation. Shernoff says his client is resilient despite profound loss, and he's determined to get justice.
"I see insurance companies treat people poorly, unfortunately, every day of my life," Shernoff said. "It doesn't really surprise me anymore. I'm a little bit hardened to it, but in this circumstance, it just shocks me."
As for Thursday's memorial at the pier, one man who lives in the neighborhood understands the need.
"Hopefully it's more of an upbeat thing," said Bill Carpenter. "Where the community comes together and says, 'Let's help people' rather than have these things happen."
After the rampage, the community rallied around the victims’ families, establishing a fund that exceeded $400,000.