May 2, 2014 2:19 pm

Man pleads guilty in California salon killings

In this FILE photo, a police officer talks to onlookers near the site where six people were killed and three were wounded in a shooting at a hair salon in Seal Beach, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011.

AP Photo/Chris Carlson

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A man pleaded guilty Friday to killing his ex-wife and seven others in a shooting rampage at a California hair salon in 2011.

Scott Dekraai, 44, a former tugboat operator, entered his pleas to eight counts of murder and one count of attempted murder with special circumstances and enhancements in Orange County Superior Court.

Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty.

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READ MORE: Defence attorney says California salon shooting suspect needs anti-psychotic medications

Dekraai’s lawyer says his client entered the pleas to spare victims’ relatives from sitting through a trial. However, he said Dekraai will fight to keep from being sentenced to death.

Dekraai donned a bulletproof vest before heading to the Seal Beach salon where his ex-wife worked as a stylist in October 2011. Authorities said he shot and killed Michelle Fournier before turning his gun on the salon’s owner and spraying Salon Meritage with bullets.

After leaving the building, Dekraai shot and killed a man who was sitting in his car in a parking lot, authorities said.

Police arrested Dekraai, who had been locked in a bitter custody dispute with Fournier over their 8-year-old son, within minutes.

“‘I know what I did,”‘ he told an arresting officer, according to a police affidavit.

The salon reopened about a year later, with six of the original employees returning to work.

Since the shootings, victims’ relatives have pleaded with the judge at numerous hearings to hasten the case to trial. In March, Judge Thomas M. Goethals severed the guilt and penalty phases to prevent additional delays as Dekraai’s lawyer Scott Sanders argues motions related to prosecutors’ efforts to seek the death penalty.

Sanders wants the district attorney’s office recused from Dekraai’s case and the death penalty taken off the table over allegations that authorities misused jailhouse informants and didn’t turn over evidence to defence attorneys. Prosecutors have denied the claims.

© The Canadian Press, 2014

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