The 8-year-old boy at the center of the custody battle behind the Salon Meritage Massacre may yet again find himself torn between his mother and father’s families.
After Scott Evans Dekraai allegedly killed his ex-wife Michelle Fournier and seven others at the Meritage Salon in October, Fournier’s daughter, Chelsea Huff, took temporary custody of her half-brother. Huff has since petitioned the court for permanent guardianship, and the case was proceeding smoothly until last week when Dekraai’s mother, Michelle S. Hinmon, filed an objection. She followed that Monday with her own petition for custody of the child.
Last week’s custody hearing was continued to give the court time to consider Hinmon’s petition for guardianship of the little boy.
Huff, her father and fellow guardian Joseph Burke, and Hinmon would all have to undergo interviews and background checks before custody can be granted, said Eric Traut, a civil attorney representing Fournier’s family in a wrongful death suit against DeKraai.
With the next hearing in the civil case set for next week, Traut was taken by surprise when he received responses to a legal questionnaire he sent to Dekraai in his jail cell.
“It was kind of weird,” Traut said, as it’s not uncommon for defendants such as Dekraai to simply ignore such requests for information.
“I wanted to see what assets he has,’” the lawyer said. "I also asked some leading questions like, ‘What did you do in the hours before you massacred those people?'"
Traut also asked Dekraai why he committed the murders. To such leading questions, Dekraai wrote that he would exercise his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself. However, he did admit to receiving $1,760 a month in disability payments from a workplace injury.
Traut found some of Dekraai’s notes “chilling.”
He scribbled a Christian cross above Traut's name, and spelled Traut’s name as Trout and inserted the phrase “non-natural grandparent” to describe his son’s maternal grandparent, who was not Fournier’s biological parent.
“He was making a dig at the grandparent and making fun of my name,” Traut said. “I think with him, it’s a control issue.”
Dekraai faces the death penalty if convicted of killing eight people in the deadliest mass murder in Orange County history. According to prosecutors, he walked into the Seal Beach salon where his ex-wife worked and shot her and eight other people after losing a bid to gain full custody of their son. His criminal trial is set for Oct. 15.