Update: Salon Meritage Killings: Judge splits massacre trial into 2 phases

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An Orange County Superior Court Judge has set June 9th as the new trial date for the man accused of the worst mass killing in Orange County history. 

Scott Dekraai is charged with killing eight people in Seal Beach on October 12, 2011. 
Seven people were killed inside the Salon Meritage beauty salon, including his ex-wife. Another person was shot in the parking lot outside the salon.

The trial date has been rescheduled many times over the past two years. 

Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals also decided the trial will be split into two parts -- one to establish Dekraai's guilt or innocence; another to determine his sentence. 

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. 

The judge said if Dekraai is convicted of the killings, there will be a delay while a different jury is selected for the penalty phase. 

Separating the two phases of the trial should speed up a legal process that has been beset with delays, something victims' family members complained about again Monday to Goethals. 

Goethals heard the complaints during a pre-trial hearing in which Dekraai's public defender, Scott Sanders, has asked to remove the death penalty as a sentencing option. Sanders also wants the Orange County District Attorney's Office removed from the case. He has accused prosecutors of misconduct, citing the improper use of jailhouse informants to collect evidence against Dekraai. 

Sanders wants the California Attorney General's Office to take over the case. 

Assistant District Attorney Dan Wagner, who is prosecuting Dekraai, said in early February that the 505-page motion from Sanders was  "filled with untruths."

The DA has remained steadfast in seeking the death penalty for Dekraai while Sanders says his client would plead guilty to the killings if the death penalty is taken off the table. 

Dekraai  is accused of walking into the salon and shooting his ex-wife, Michelle Fournier, before opening fire on others inside the business and David Caouette in the parking lot outside. Dekraai and Fournier were involved in a custody dispute at the time.

The eight people killed were Fournier, 48; the salon's owner, Randy Lee Fannin, 62; Victoria Ann Buzzo, 54; Lucia Bernice Kondas, 65; Laura Lee Elody, 46; Christy Lynn Wilson, 47; Michele Daschbach Fast, 47; and Caouette, 64, who was shot in his Range Rover outside the salon. 73-year-old Hattie Stretz was also shot, but survived her wounds.

Within minutes of the shootings, Seal Beach police arrested Dekraai a few blocks from the salon.

Dekraai and Fournier had been in a Santa Ana courtroom the day before the shootings for a hearing involving custody of their 8-year-old son, Dominic. Dekraai had been seeking sole custody of his son, but a court-ordered report recommended against it.

In grand jury transcripts unsealed in May 2012, salon hairstylist Gordon Gallego testified that he saw Dekraai enter the salon through a side entrance and walk up to his ex-wife, Michelle Fournier, as she washed another stylist’s hair.

Gallego says he then heard Dekraai blurt out, “This is what you wanted, how you wanted it" before he began shooting Fournier and stylist Christy Wilson.

Gallego grabbed co-worker Lisa Powers and ran to the employee restroom to avoid the gunfire, according to testimony.

From behind the closed door, he says he could hear “constant screaming and gunshots.” Then he heard co-worker Laura Elody slump against the other side of the restroom door, begging for her life.

Gallego says he could hear Elody crying, “ You don’t have to do this, please don’t kill me.”

“And then what happened?” asked Orange County Assistant DA Dan Wagner.

Gallego: “He shot her.”

 

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