The death penalty case of the man accused of killing eight people at the Salon Meritage in Seal Beach is set for trial Oct. 15, a year and three days after the shooting that stands as the deadliest mass murder in Orange County’s history.
Scott Evans Dekraai, 42, the alleged Salon Meritage gunman, appeared in court today for a pretrial hearing during which the trial date was set. He is scheduled to be back in court in April for a motion hearing during which the prosecution and defense are expected to wrangle over whether the grand jury transcripts in the case should be sealed.
“The defense has filed a motion to keep the grand jury transcript sealed. The people intend to file a motion prior to the April 13th hearing in opposition,” said Farrah Emami, spokeswoman for the Orange County District Attorney’s office.
The people have the right to the grand jury testimony, and this case should be as transparent as any other, said Emami.
The reason the Dekraai’s defense team would want to bar the testimony from becoming public record is to prevent it from possibly prejudicing the jury pool. When Dekraai was first arraigned two days after the shooting, his attorney hinted that a change of venue motion might be filed on the grounds that Dekraai could not get a fair trial in Orange County. If such a motion is filed, it would likely be filed closer to the October trial date.
Earlier this month, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas convened a grand jury to have Dekraai indicted in an effort to expedite the trial. The move, said Rackauckas, was designed to speed up the trial in order to bring justice to the families of the victims. Family members of the eight people Dekraai is accused of killing have attended each court hearing the case since the shootings.
Deputy District Attorney Scott Simmons, however, said it was doubtful the trial will begin then. Prosecutors are hoping to get the case before a jury sometime next year, Simmons said.
Rackauckas said he anticipates that it would take a little over two months to try the case. Dekraai is currently represented by a public defender, but his earlier attorney hinted that a change of venue motion or insanity defense could play a role in the case.
Dekraai is accused of walking into the Salon Meritage on Oct. 12 and shooting and killing his 48-year-old ex-wife Michelle Fournier before opening fire on others inside the business. Also killed in the shooting were 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 David Caouette, 64. Hattie Stretz, 73, was also shot, but survived. Dekraai remains jailed without bail.
More details to come.