Scott Evans Dekraai, who pleaded guilty to the worst mass killing in Orange County history, was sentenced to eight terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole, one term for each of his victims. He also was sentenced to 232 years to life for attempted murder and several gun enhancements.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals imposed the sentence Friday, Sept. 22 in a Santa Ana courtroom, ending a nearly six-year legal battle that started when Dekraai gunned down his ex-wife and seven others at a Seal Beach hair salon on Oct. 12, 2011.
The case dragged on as evidence mounted showing widespread misuse of jailhouse informants by local prosecutors and sheriff’s deputies. Goethals eventually ruled out capital punishment for Dekraai, saying the prosecution team’s misconduct made the “once unthinkable” ruling his preferred option.
District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who was thrown off the case in March 2015 by Goethals, sought the death penalty for Dekraai. So did the state prosecutors who took over the case.
The sentencing, and revelations that came to light during the Dekraai case, could echo through next June’s elections. Rackauckas is seeking another term and several candidates hope to replace Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, who is retiring.
Rackauckas and Hutchens disagreed with Goethals’ decision to rule out the death penalty, saying he was making the choice for reasons other than their misconduct.
“The decision to remove the death penalty rests at the feet of Judge Goethals and nobody else,” said a statement in August from the sheriff’s department.
State prosecutors said Friday they will not appeal Goethals’ decision to rule out the death penalty for Dekraai.
Goethals, who handled death penalty cases as a prosecutor and a defense lawyer, and now as a judge, described the Seal Beach shootings as a crime of such “horrible magnitude, they can hardly be compared to any others in the history of Orange County.”