SANTA ANA, Calif. – A string of angry shouts, including “I hate you, I hate you,” tore through a packed Orange County courtroom Friday as the man accused of killing eight people and wounding a ninth at a Seal Beach beauty salon made his first court appearance.
The defendant, Scott Evans Dekraai, showed no emotion amid taunts from the audience, which included dozens of family members and friends of the victims.
Prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty against Dekraai, who is charged with eight felony counts of special circumstance first-degree murder, and one felony count of attempted murder in connection with the worst mass murder in the county’s history.
Attorney Robert Curtis asked Orange County Superior Court Judge Erick L. Larsh for a continuance in order to assemble a defense team. Curtis also told Larsh that a medical order is needed so that Dekraai can receive his anti-psychotic medication, and to have a spinal cord stimulator to help control chronic pain that the defendant suffers.
The judge ordered a medical evaluation of the defendant, who is being held without bail, and continued the arraignment to Nov. 29.
That fueled an already tense scene, as some family members held hands and others clutched photos of those who perished in Wednesday’s assault at Salon Meritage. Among those in attendance was Butch Fournier, the brother of Michelle Marie Fournier, Dekraai’s 48-year-old ex-wife who worked at the salon and is believed to have been his primary target.
She and Dekraai divorced in 2007 but were locked in a custody battle for their 8-year-old son. Authorities said Dekraai had talked early Wednesday with Fournier, who was among the people shot to death at close range.
Outside the courtroom, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said he expected mental health would be part of the defense strategy.
“I won’t be surprised if we get an insanity plea,” he said.
Hours earlier, in an emotional news conference, Rackauckas released new details about the attack, painting a horrifying scene in which people were playing dead and trying to hide anywhere they could.
There were about 20 people in the salon at the time, he said, adding that Dekraai came “prepared to commit murder.”
“Wearing a bulletproof vest and armed with three firearms, he walked through the salon shooting anyone close enough to hit,” Rackauckas said. “He stopped to reload, and then continued gunning people down. He was not satisfied with murdering his intended target, his ex-wife. … The reason for this rampage? Revenge.”
Rackauckas said that Dekraai believed that some of the salon employees were “enablers” in the custody battle.
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