Families of California salon shooting victims urge plea deal


SEAL BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Families of some victims of a mass killing at a Seal Beach hair salon want prosecutors to accept a plea deal from the convicted killer, saying they’re exhausted by years of legally wrangling in a case marred by prosecutorial misconduct.

Some relatives of the eight people Scott Dekraai was convicted of slaying urged authorities Saturday to accept his offer of taking a life sentence without chance of parole rather than seek the death penalty, the Orange County Register reported (http://bit.ly/2gzVasG ).

Four families took part in the news conference.

“Our intent here is the simple acknowledgment that the case is fatally flawed and is currently positioned for a lifetime of appeals,” said Hattie Stretz, who was wounded and lost her daughter, Laura Webb Elody, in the 2011 attack.

“We have no choice but to collectively agree we do not want the death penalty pursued,” said Paul Wilson, whose wife, Christy, was killed. “We are exhausted from this continuous pain, and this has got to be over with. Life will never be the same for us, but we should have the chance to move on.”

Other relatives of victims disagreed, saying they want Dekraai to face the death penalty, but all acknowledged their unhappiness with the length of trial proceedings and appeals.

Dekraai, a former tugboat crew member, had been locked in a custody dispute with his hairstylist ex-wife, Michelle Fournier, over their 8-year-old son when he entered Salon Meritage on Oct. 12, 2011. He wore a bulletproof vest and was armed with three weapons.

Dekraai shot and killed Fournier before turning his guns on the salon owner, stylists and customers and a man sitting in his car in the parking lot. He was arrested within minutes of the rampage and pleaded guilty to murder.

But then Dekraai’s public defender, Scott Sanders, accused authorities of trying to cover up an informant program that had trained jailhouse snitches to sidle up to high-profile defendants and elicit information from them in violation of their constitutional rights.

A judge found that Orange County prosecutors failed to turn over evidence about an informant who spoke with Dekraai and barred them from using it.

After Sanders uncovered additional jail records that had not been mentioned by sheriff’s deputies during their testimony about jailhouse informants, the judge removed the district attorney’s office from the penalty phase of Dekraai’s trial.

The case was handed to the state attorney general’s office, which appealed. Last month, an appellate court upheld the decision, saying there were “real” and “systemic” abuses by prosecutors and law enforcement.

Meanwhile, six murder and attempted murder cases have unraveled because of concerns over informants.