Family members of those killed in a shooting at a Seal Beach salon two years ago urged a judge Friday to end their "agony" by ordering the accused killer to stand trial this fall.
But the judge, though expressing sympathy to family members gathered in the Orange County courtroom, said the case was too complex to be rushed and delayed a trial until at least next year.
The trial for Scott Dekraai, A Huntington Beach man who has been in custody since the shooting, had been set to start in November.
“This needs to move on and we need to be allowed to heal,” said Paul Wilson, whose wife, Christy Wilson, was killed in the shooting.
Police say Dekraai was seeking revenge on his ex-wife, Michelle Fournier, when he walked into Salon Meritage and opened fire on Oct. 12, 2011. The couple had been involved in a custody dispute, and Fournier was an employee at the salon. Prosecutors have charged Dekraai with eight counts of special circumstances murder and one count of attempted murder.
They are seeking the death penalty.
Dekraai’s lawyer, Scott Sanders, told the judge the defense team needed more time to prepare because of the complexities involved in trying a death penalty case. He warned that rushing into trial could lead the verdict to be overturned.
“If we go to trial in November, this case will be back here in 20 years,” he said.
The judge allowed the victims to address the court under provisions in the California Victims’ Bill of Rights, also known as Marsy’s law, which was approved by voters in 2008.
Several family members lined up to speak before the judge issued his decision.
Dekraai, who appeared in court in an orange jail-issued jumpsuit and handcuffs, turned his chair to face the speakers. But a bailiff returned the chair to its original position so that Dekraai faced the judge.
During the nearly two years since the shooting, dozens of family members have been present for various court hearings in the run-up to the trial. They wear blue wrist bands and ribbons and T-shirts that say “Support in Love Seal Beach.”
On Friday, they spoke of the pain of sitting in court near the man accused of killing their loved ones and of the responsibility they feel to continue being there.
“The agony you are putting us through with delay after delay after delay, you don’t understand,” Bill Webb told the judge. Webb’s daughter Laura Elody was killed in the shooting.
“Our lives are forever changed and every time we come here we sit 5 feet away, 15 feet away, from a monster,” said Bethany Webb, Elody’s sister.
Fournier’s daughter, Chelsea Huff, also addressed the court, saying the defense would continue to delay.
“They’re always going to say they’re not ready,” she said. “They’re always going to say they need more time.”
Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals expressed sympathy for the families but said his responsibility was to balance the rights of both sides. He agreed with the defense that rushing forward could ultimately result in a second trial.
“We will continue to move forward as steadfastly as we can,” he said.
He set a trial date for March 24, 2014. The defense could ask for another delay before that date.
Dekraai spoke once, when the judge asked if he understood the decision.
“I understand and agree, sir,” he said.