The man accused in the largest mass murder in Orange County history pleaded not guilty Wednesday to shooting and killing eight people at a Seal Beach beauty salon, including his ex-wife.
Scott Evans Dekraai, wearing a mustard-yellow jumpsuit, his hands handcuffed in front of him, said nothing during his brief arraignment before a courtroom crowded with emotional family and friends of the victims of the Oct. 12 shooting spree at Salon Meritage.
Dekraai was kept behind a barrier during the hearing at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana and did not look at the crowd.
Dozens of family members and friends attended the hearing. In the hallway before the court was opened, there were hugs and tears.
Some wore pins with photos of loved ones. Some carried photos.
Before they could enter the courtroom, an Orange County sheriff’s deputy warned them to have no outbursts, saying he knew there was much emotion tied to the case.
There was angry shouting at Dekraai’s first court appearance in October, but the crowd was silent and teary-eyed Wednesday.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Dekraai, who was indicted by a grand jury Tuesday on eight counts of murder with special circumstances and one felony count of attempted murder.
Dekraai pleaded not guilty in November at an earlier arraignment after the charges were first filed. Prosecutors have since opted to pursue a grand jury indictment — avoiding the need for a preliminary hearing — hoping to speed the process, Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas said.
“What we want to do here is get this case to trial as soon as we can,” Rackauckas told victims’ family and friends outside the courtroom following the hearing.
Prosecutors hope to get the case to trial within a year, Rackauckas said.
Dekraai is accused of entering the salon wearing a bulletproof vest under his clothing and carrying multiple guns.
Dekraai’s ex-wife, Michelle Fournier, worked in the salon, and Dekraai allegedly shot her before turning to other salon customers and employees and opening fire.
Court records show Dekraai and Fournier had been in a bitter custody battle over their 8-year-old son.
Fournier’s brother, Craig Burk, attended Wednesday’s hearing wearing a T-shirt with a blue heart bearing the words, “Support in Love Seal Beach.”
Burk, who lives out of state, has attended all of Dekraai’s court appearances and plans to keep doing so.
“The only way we can get through this is to be here,” Burk said.
Paul Wilson wore four buttons with photographs of his wife, Christy Wilson, who was killed in the shooting. On one, she is pictured smiling, holding her 2-year-old granddaughter, Madisyn.
As he left the courtroom, Wilson had tears in his eyes and clutched a framed photo of Christy and him, dressed up to go to a Christmas party.
“She was the love of my life for 26 years of marriage,” Wilson said, looking at the photo.
Though Dekraai did not look at the crowd, “he knows we were there,” Wilson said. “He can feel it.”
“We lost eight lives that day to somebody who had no business owning a weapon.”