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       December 31, 2011 12:14 AM

 From hero to monster


In February 2007, Scott Dekraai (left), an ex-Marine and former fishing boat captain, was working on a tugboat two miles off the coast of Los Angeles. Suddenly, a tow line snapped, crushing a female co-worker. Dekraai rushed to help her, but the woman died, and Dekraai's leg was mangled.
An LA County Sheriff who investigated the accident called his actions "heroic."

But his marriage to Michelle Fournier Dekraai, was troubled. They had separated the previous year; a month after the accident they were divorced. Unable to work and in constant pain, Dekraai moved to Huntington Beach. He doted on his son Dominic who attended school in Seal Beach where Michelle (right) lived.

On October 13, 2011, following a brief phone conversation with Michelle, Dekraai strapped on body armor and drove nine miles to Seal Beach. Dominic, age 8, was at school waiting for someone to pick him up, but Scott didn't go there. Armed with three handguns, he drove to Salon Meritage where Michelle was a hair stylist. 

Dekraai burst into the salon and started shooting. For two minutes, he walked through the crowded salon, methodically shooting eight people in the head and chest. Dekraai then left the salon and shot another man in the parking lot. A construction worker witnessed this from across the street, called 911 and gave police a description of the shooter: a large white man who weighed maybe 300 pounds, driving a white pickup truck.

When police arrived, they found multiple gunshot victims inside the salon. Many appeared to have been seeking shelter when they were shot. Some survived. Five people hid in a back room, some ran out outside, others dropped to the floor and played dead. But the carnage was brutal. Six people died at the scene; three were hospitalized in critical condition.

A few minutes later police stopped a white Toyota pickup truck a half-mile from the scene. Scott Dekraai, age 41, surrendered without resisting. He had three weapons in his truck, a knife in each pocket, and ammunition in his cargo pants. When police officers opened Dekraai's shirt, they discovered that he was wearing body armor. Dekraai was taken to the Orange County Jail and held without bail, for the deadliest shooting rampage ever in Orange County.

At a news conference the next day, acting Chief of Police Tim Olson said, "No matter how well you are trained, when you see a situation like this, it's overwhelming. This was not a random act of violence. The suspect knew his intended victim." And his primary target was Michelle.

The previous day, Scott and Michelle had attended a custody hearing about their son Dominic, one of many in their long and acrimonious dispute. In documents filed earlier, Michelle claimed that Scott was unstable and physically abusive during their marriage and had at least once threatened to kill himself or someone else. She described Scott as "almost manic" regarding decisions about their son and asked the court to refuse his request to spend more time with him.

Scott claimed that Michelle had a drinking problem and didn't keep a close watch on their son. However, he did acknowledge that he had been diagnosed as bi-polar and was taking pain medication for his leg injury.

The day before the shooting, a court-appointed psychologist presented an evaluation that concluded the current agreement, which gave each parent close to equal time with their son, should remain as it was. Lawyers later said both parents were well-mannered in court.

Eight victims and a world of grief

The day after the massacre, two of the three hospitalized victims died. Throughout the day grieving residents of the tight-knit Seal Beach community dropped off flowers, cards and stuffed animals at Salon Meritage to honor the victims: salon co-owner Randy Fannin, 62; Michelle Fournier, 48; Victoria Buzzo, 54; Lucia Kondas, 65; Laura Elody, 46; Christy Wilson, 47; Michele Fast, 47; and David Caouette, 64. A ninth victim, Hattie Stretz, 73, was hospitalized in critical condition. Stretz was at the salon to visit her daughter, Laura Elody, who worked there. Laura did not survive the massacre.

"I can't stop crying. I barely slept last night," said Mary Sterns, who knew Randy Fannin, co-owner of the salon. "He was the greatest guy you'd ever want to meet." Sterns said when she heard what happened, "I knew he would be one of [the victims], because I knew he would try to do something, and I heard that he did."

Michelle Fournier's friend Susan Davenport said: "[Michelle] was a good mom. She was in a terrible situation, that's all." Another friend, Sharyn White, said that weeks prior to the shooting Scott had stopped by the salon and threatened to kill Michelle and others at the salon. White said Michelle told her that everyone else at the salon laughed off the threat, but she took it seriously. "She said 'Scott has threatened to come in here and kill us.'" Michelle also said Scott had previously made similar threats and at one point had held a gun to her head.

In fact, court documents indicate that in 2007, the year Michelle and Scott divorced, Scott's step-father had filed a temporary restraining order against him after Scott attacked him. The order required Dekraai to surrender his guns, but 2011 that order had expired.

Orange County prosecutor Tony Rackauckas vowed to seek the death penalty, saying Dominic was also a victim. "Now his mother has been murdered, and he has to grow up knowing his dad is a mass-murderer. So what kind of  sick, twisted fatherly love might that be?"

Dekraai's arraignment

On November 29, 2011, Scott Dekraai entered a not guilty plea at his court arraignment. About 20 relatives of the victims, along with several Seal Beach police detectives, lined the courtroom. Dekraai's attorney, Public Defender Scott Sanders, objected to photographers in the courtroom, implying that media scrutiny would make it difficult for Dekraai to get a fair trial. He also said he might need more time to present a defense in the death penalty case before the preliminary hearing scheduled for April 24, 2012.

After the arraignment, friends and family of the victims addressed the media, vowing to attend every court hearing and, if the death penalty is imposed, Dekraai's execution.

"I feel he's just a cowardly shell of a man," said Paul Wilson, the husband of victim Christy Wilson.

Said Butch Fournier, Michelle's brother, "If he does get the death penalty, I will be there gazing through the glass, I promise you that."

Another brother, Craig Burke, who lives in Arizona, attended the arraignment and plans to attend every court hearing until Dekraai is convicted. "Scott was always respectful and polite around me," Burke said, "because I was the brother who would have done something if he wasn’t.” He also said Scott was abusive to his sister throughout their relationship, but Michelle "... only told me about it a month before this happened. I wish she’d have told me [earlier]."

Michelle's adult daughter Chelsea Huff now has custody of eight-year-old Dominic. She quit her job in Los Angeles to care for him in Seal Beach, saying, "I love the Seal Beach community. I grew up there. I'm just glad he has the chance to grow up there."

But celebrating the holidays without Michelle has been difficult, and reliving the tragedy through court hearings and news reports has been painful.

Michelle's brother worries about Dominic. "He goes to school a few blocks from where it happened every day. We all lost a big part of our lives, but he lost both parents,” said Craig Burke. "We don’t say anything bad about his dad in front of him. My anger toward his dad in front of him is not going to help Dominic."

A trial date has not yet been determined. Scott Dekraai remains jailed without bail.

For more details on this and other cases see DARK DEEDS, Volume Two: Serial killers, stalkers and domestic homicides

Some say Dekraai, who had been diagnosed with a bipolar disorder and was not taking his medications, should have been placed in a treatment program. What do you think?  I welcome your comments.

Sources: Compiled from news reports by ABC News and Associated Press reports, October-November, 2011

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[ Posted by Alan Place, January 04, 2012 5:52 PM ]
     Bi-polar or not, this was mass murder, the use of body armour, is not a sign of someone suffering.
He knew what he was doing, and as such should be treated as you would any other criminal in a murder case.
Death penalty

[ Posted by Art Smukler, January 06, 2012 1:20 PM ]
     What a nightmare! Whether Scott is Bipolar, paranoid or psychotically depressed seems irrelevant. People like him are untreatable and should never be allowed back into civilized society.
Thanks! Very interesting. Art

[ Posted by David, January 11, 2012 3:16 PM ]
     This trial is nothing but a waste of taxpayer money. Too much of a coward to die, so he wore a bullet proof vest, so the cops couldn't shoot him. Yeah, no pre-meditation there.

Too bad we're a "civilized" society, innocent until proven guilty, and then 20 years of appeals.

Just put the needle in his arm now, and let that be the end for the families suffering because of his actions. He serves no purpose whatsoever by still existing on this planet.

[ Posted by admin, January 11, 2012 3:24 PM ]
     I can understand your sentiments, David, because your prediction will probably be correct. However, I also believe the US justice system, with its "innocent until proven guilty" is far better than the systems in other countries, where people are assumed to be guilty and don't even get a trial. The most important thing is to get this guy off the street. And he is. Hopefully forever.

[ Posted by Anon, July 04, 2016 3:10 AM ]
     Laura was my friend. She was one of the best people I knew, and I knew her since I was a baby. She was a silver lining in my life and always was kind. She didn't deserve this. Nor did Michelle or David, or any other of the victims. I knew Michelle and David as acquaintances, but they were amazing people who always were smiling.
I still hurt from this. This man did something awful, and I think it's most likely he was in his right minds when he committed the awful act.
What they did not deserve should be repaid with what he rightfully deserves. If he be repentant, he'll see reason in the penalty.

[ Posted by admin, July 05, 2016 7:35 AM ]
     Thank you for the comment. This was indeed a tragic and horrific crime. My sympathy to you for the loss of your friends.

posted by SUSAN FLEET   December 31, 2011 12:14 AM  Domestic Homicide 


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