The man accused of gunning down eight people at a Seal Beach hair salon pleaded guilty Friday, setting the stage for a legal battle over whether he should be put to death for the 2011 slayings.
Scott Dekraai, who prosecutors said heavily armed himself before walking into a neighborhood beauty salon and opening fire, pleaded guilty to eight counts of special circumstances murder and one count of attempted murder, making him eligible for the death penalty.
But whether the former tug boat captain winds up on death row remains an open question.
A trial would be held to determine whether Dekraai should be put to death, but his attorneys have asked that the death penalty be dropped, claiming the case was compromised.
Dekraai’s plea on Friday ended a two-and-a-half-year wait for his trial to begin and quelled a growing sense of frustration for victims’ families, some of whom repeatedly urged the court to speed up the pace of the proceedings.
Recently, the trial has been sidetracked as the court examined defense allegations of the improper use of jailhouse informants in Dekraai's case and others.
Police say Dekraai wanted revenge on his ex-wife, Michelle Fournier, when he walked into Salon Meritage on Oct. 12, 2011, and opened fire. Dekraai, who had been involved in a custody dispute with Fournier, was arrested as he drove away from the scene and shortly thereafter confessed to investigators, according to court records.