SANTA ANA, Calif. – A California man faces life in prison at his sentencing Friday for killing his ex-wife and seven others in a shooting rampage at the hair salon where she worked.
Scott Dekraai, a 47-year-old former tugboat operator, is scheduled to be sentenced in Orange County for the 2011 killings to which he pleaded guilty three years ago.
His case has dragged on for years due to a scandal over authorities' use of informants to cull information from Dekraai and others housed in the county's jails.
While authorities can receive information from informants, they can't have snitches deliberately seek out information from inmates with legal representation.
Dekraai's public defender Scott Sanders began seeking records about informants after he noticed a jailhouse informant, who had chatted up a previous client, was speaking with Dekraai. Sanders accused authorities of trying to cover up a snitch program that had trained inmates to sidle up to high-profile defendants.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals removed the county district attorney's office from the case after finding deputies lied or withheld evidence about snitches.
The state Attorney General took over the prosecution and also recommended the death sentence. But when Goethals discovered that sheriff's authorities continued to refuse to turn over informant-related records, he removed capital punishment as an option, saying they had jeopardized the killer's right to a fair trial.
Dekraai pleaded guilty to eight counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.
He had been locked in a custody dispute with ex-wife Michelle Fournier over their 8-year-old son when he entered Salon Meritage in Seal Beach wearing a bulletproof vest and 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.
Relatives of the victims have been exhausted by the delays in the case. Some said they wanted prosecutors to agree to a life sentence for Dekraai to avoid years of appeals.