Salon suspect’s ex-wife claimed abuse, instability
Thursday, October 13, 2011
SEAL BEACH, Calif. (AP) — The ex-wife of the man suspected of killing eight people in a shooting rampage at a hair salon claimed in court papers filed this year that he was mentally unstable and had threatened to kill himself or someone else at least once.
Michelle Fournier Dekraai made the allegations in May in a filing related to her long-running, bitter custody battle with Scott Dekraai over their 7-year-old son.
There was no sign that she had filed a restraining order, but a relative of Scott Dekraai said Michelle told her that he had walked into the Meritage Salon as recently as two months ago and threatened to kill Michelle and her co-workers.
Police say Scott Dekraai opened fire Wednesday afternoon in the salon, where his ex-wife worked, and was arrested soon after. On Tuesday he had been in court for a hearing related to the custody dispute.
Police have not released information about the victims and it’s unclear if Dekraai’s ex-wife is among them, but witnesses say she was at the salon when the gunman barged in and began shooting.
The couple divorced in 2007, and Scott Dekraai remarried, but the battle over their son continued to rage. Michelle Fournier Dekraai wrote in the court papers that her ex-husband was “almost manic when it comes to demanding absolute right to control our son and make unilateral decisions.”
She wrote that giving Scott Dekraai more custody of their child would be lead to “a situation where the inmates are running the asylum.”
Sharyn White, a step-aunt of Scott Dekraai and a friend of Michelle’s, said Michelle previously told her that Scott had walked into the salon and threatened to kill Fournier and others. White said that according to Michelle, her colleagues and the customers in the salon laughed off the threat.
White, of Seal Beach, said in a telephone interview that Scott Dekraai had a troubled upbringing and grappled with mental illness.
Michelle Dekraai wrote in the court filing that her ex-husband had been physically abusive to her during their marriage, and that in 2008 he beat his stepfather, pleaded guilty to assault and battery and underwent a year of anger management.
A temporary restraining order obtained by Scott Dekraai’s stepfather in 2007 said that Dekraai attacked him that year, leaving him with cuts and bruises on his face and right arm. It said Dekraai’s son witnessed the attack.
Michelle Dekraai also alleged that her ex-husband called 911 at least once “advised that he was going to kill himself or someone else.” She wrote that he “is a diagnosed bipolar individual who has problems with his own medication and his reaction to same, and he certainly shouldn’t be allowed to have unilateral and unfettered control of any and all medical and psychological aspects of our son’s life.”
In his own court filing, Scott Dekraai alleged that his ex-wife had a drinking problem, saying she was talking loudly and slurring words at their son’s Little League baseball game earlier this year and that her breath smelled of alcohol when he picked up his son from her house one time last year.
He told the court in 2008 that he wanted to communicate with his ex-wife only by email because she was verbally abusive, and that she used an expletive word in place of his name.
Lydia Sosa, a hairstylist who worked at the salon until about two years ago, said Michelle Dekraai spoke often of her “bitter” problems with her ex-husband.
Scott Dekraai’s neighbors in Huntington Beach also were aware of the custody battle. They described him as an outgoing man who invited them over for pool parties and played catch with his son in his yard.
“It was a very difficult battle and he was trying to get more time” with his son, said Jo Cornhall, who lives across the street from Dekraai.
Next-door neighbor Stephanie Malchow, 29, said she was shocked when she saw the photo of the stocky man with thinning hair being detained by Seal Beach police.
“I’m like, ‘No, not this neighbor, no way. He’s the nicest guy ever,”’ Malchow said.
Six women and two men were killed in the shooting. Their identities were not officially released, but owner Randy Fannin’s niece, Tami Scarcella, told the Los Angeles Times her uncle was among the dead.
Wednesday was a busy afternoon at the salon and every hair-dressing station was full. Terrified customers dove for cover as the gunman opened fire in the shop blocks from the beach in this quaint seaside town.
The shooter stepped outside, shot a man sitting in a truck in the parking lot and sped off.
Police arrested Dekraai, 41, about a half-mile from the scene. He did not struggle, police said
A woman who was wounded in the rampage remained in critical condition Thursday, police said. Sgt. Steve Bowles said the woman was showing some signs of improvement. Her name was not released.
The crime scene tape around the salon was gone early Thursday, with blinds on the side windows drawn and black plastic bags taped over the front windows and door.
The mass shooting was the worst in Orange County history since July 12, 1976, when a custodian killed seven people and wounded two others at California State University, Fullerton. Seal Beach had seen just one homicide in the four years before Wednesday.
Scott Dekraai was seeking full custody of the couple’s son but a court-ordered review recommended against that, John Cate Jr., the attorney for Michelle Dekraai, told the Orange County Register.
Dekraai appeared for a court hearing in the case on Tuesday but it was merely a scheduling meeting, Cate said.
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