Families of Murdered Victims and Survivors Speak Out at Sentencing

SANTA ANA (CNS) - Two survivors of Scott Dekraai's bloody rampage at a Seal Beach beauty salon told an Orange County Superior Court judge at the defendant's sentencing today how they can't shake the memory of that afternoon's carnage.

Lisa Powers, an employee at Salon Meritage, said she was stuck in a dark bathroom, where she and her work friend, Gordon Gallego, barricaded themselves as Dekraai rained bullets throughout the shop.

Until investigators could move the body of 46-year-old Laura Webb Elody and clear the crime scene, Powers had to remain in place.

Powers told Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals she didn't intend to make a victim-impact statement at Dekraai's sentencing today, but she found courage following the speeches made by the families of other victims.

Gallego dragged Powers into the employee bathroom moments after Dekraai opened fire on his ex-wife, 48-year-old Michelle Marie Fournier, and then turned his gun on the other victims.

``We're hiding, we're standing on a toilet, two of us, for fear of the bullets coming through the door as you shot Laura Webb Elody,'' Powers said. ``It was so scary, terrifying. She begged for her life. He shot several times. We could feel the power of the gunfire on the door.''

Powers said, Elody pleaded with Dekraai, ``Scott, don't do this, don't do this.''

Powers added she can recall the ``smell of gunpowder'' in the air.

Gallego managed to squeeze out of the bathroom, which was blocked by Elody's body, to see if his ``best friend'' had survived, Powers said. Powers, however, could not get out, and then had to wait on crime scene investigators for about 45 minutes.

``It's pitch black. I'm standing in Laura's blood and hair under the door,'' Powers said.

Powers had never experienced depression before the Oct. 12, 2011, massacre. Now she grapples with it and thoughts of suicide every day, she said.

``To this day, I can't close the bathroom door at home,'' she said.

Her son, who was 18 at the time, was at Disneyland and received a news alert about the shooting on his phone, she said. He did not know if his mother was killed in the hail of bullets for some time, and now he also struggles with depression, she said.

When first responders were able to usher Powers out of the salon finally they put a towel over her head and advised her to avert her eyes from the gruesome scene.

``I couldn't help it. I had to look down and had to step over two bodies,'' Powers said. ``That's going to be in my head for the rest of my life.''

Powers told Dekraai, who had been in a bitter child-custody battle with his ex-wife before the shooting, ``I believe you hated Michelle more than you loved your own son.''

Gallego told Goethals, ``Laura was my best friend... I'm haunted by the whisper of her last breath.''

When Gallego squeezed out of the bathroom, he went to check on Elody and saw she was dead. Then he went to check on 54-year-old Victoria Ann Buzzo, his other best friend at work, but she was also felled by the bullets.

``You took two of the most important people in my life in a matter of minutes,'' Gallego said.

He fell into a state of shock when he saw his other friends at work killed.

``It wasn't registering what just happened,'' he said.

``They meant nothing to you,'' Gallego said to Dekraai. ``But they were all I had. That was my family that you tore apart.''

Paul Wilson, whose 47-year-old wife, Christy, was killed, recounted an idyllic night with his wife of 26 years a day before.

``She asked me to look at the new moon. She told me it was a forgiving moon,'' Wilson said.

He begged off, saying he wanted to catch up on ESPN headlines, and she was OK with it, he said.

The next morning as they had breakfast he asked her how the moon was.

``It was so beautiful,'' she told him.

She felt ``blessed'' because she had no one to forgive and did not seek forgiveness, Wilson said.

``I kissed her goodbye'' before she went to the beauty salon for her appointment, he said.

Dekraai shot Wilson because she was friends with the defendant's ex-wife and she had testified in the child custody hearings.

``You knew my children,'' Wilson said, prompting an apology from Dekraai, which was met with jeers from other family members of the victims.

Wilson said he just kept talking past Dekraai's apology, later characterizing it to City News Service as a ``slap in the face.''

Fournier's brother, Butch, told Dekraai he was ``garbage,'' and said the defendant was prone to ``spoiled tantrums.''

``When you didn't get what you want you hurt the one person who loved you the most,'' he said, referring to Dekraai's son. ``What did you do to him?''

Most of the victims' family members who spoke praised Goethals for the way he handled the case and for ending the litigation. That included Paul Caouette, whose 64-year-old father was gunned down, who advocated for the death penalty.

Caouette told Dekraai he didn't want to comment on him, because, ``You're utterly worthless.''

Caouette, however, told Goethals that even though he ended any chance of sending Dekraai to death row, ``You've done a great job.''

Goethals said if not for the corruption allegations and findings in the case, it was likely he would have ultimately sentenced Dekraai to death.

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