LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A California man was sentenced on Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the worst mass killing in Orange County history, the 2011 shooting deaths of eight people at a hair salon where his ex-wife worked.
Scott Dekraai, a 47-year-old former tugboat worker, was spared the death penalty in August when a judge ruled that serious misconduct by Orange County prosecutors had violated his rights to a fair trial.
“The gates of Hell flew open and you emerged as the face of evil in this community” Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals told Dekraai before pronouncing the sentence, according to the Orange County Register newspaper.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Dekraai attempted to apologize to the husband of one of his victims but was cut off by a member of the audience shouting “Shut up!”
Dekraai was locked in a custody battle with his ex-wife, Michelle Fournier, when he walked into Salon Meritage in the seaside community of Seal Beach carrying three guns and opened fire as their son waited to be picked up from school.
Fournier was killed in the shop along with six others. Outside, Dekraai fatally shot 64-year-old David Caouette, who was sitting in his sport utility vehicle. One person was wounded in the attack.
Dekraai was arrested blocks from the bloody scene in a community southeast of Los Angeles known by locals as “Mayberry by the Sea” for its bucolic, small-town ambiance.
Dekraai pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder in May 2014, making him eligible for the death penalty, but the judge took the case away from Orange County prosecutors the following year over accusations that a jailhouse informant was improperly used to wring a confession from Dekraai.
The California Attorney General’s office has handled the prosecution since then.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office said in a written statement it had “fought for the death penalty because it is hard to fathom how anyone who has heard Dekraai’s chilling recorded confession immediately following his arrest would think that this evil person should get anything less than the death penalty.”
Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; editing by Steve Orlofsky and Cynthia Osterman