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California man charged with killing 8 in salon shooting rampage is expected to plead guilty

Scott Dekraai sits with his public defender Scott Sanders in Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana, Calif., on Friday, May 2, 2014. Dekraai, 44, who was in a custody fight with his ex-wife pleaded guilty Friday to killing her and seven others in a shooting rampage at a California hair salon in 2011. Dekraai donned a bulletproof vest before heading to the Seal Beach salon where his ex-wife worked as a stylist in October 2011. Authorities said he shot and killed Michelle Fournier before turning his gun on the salon's owner and spraying Salon Meritage with bullets. The salon reopened about a year later, with six of the original employees returning to work. (AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Kevin Sullivan) MAGS OUT; LOS ANGELES TIMES OUT

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Scott Dekraai sits with his public defender Scott Sanders in Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana, Calif., on Friday, May 2, 2014. Dekraai, 44, who was in a custody fight with his ex-wife pleaded guilty Friday to killing her and seven others in a shooting rampage at a California hair salon in 2011. Dekraai donned a bulletproof vest before heading to the Seal Beach salon where his ex-wife worked as a stylist in October 2011. Authorities said he shot and killed Michelle Fournier before turning his gun on the salon's owner and spraying Salon Meritage with bullets. The salon reopened about a year later, with six of the original employees returning to work. (AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Kevin Sullivan) MAGS OUT; LOS ANGELES TIMES OUT

SANTA ANA, Calif. - A man charged with killing his ex-wife and seven others in a shooting rampage at a Southern California hair salon is expected to appear in court to plead guilty on Friday.

Scott Dekraai, a 44-year-old former tugboat operator, is charged with eight counts of murder and one count of attempted murder with special circumstances and enhancements in connection with the shootings at Salon Meritage in Seal Beach in 2011.

Dekraai's lawyer said earlier this week that he wanted to enter the guilty pleas to spare victims' relatives the agony of a trial over his guilt while he continues to fight prosecutors' efforts to have him sentenced to death.

Authorities say Dekraai donned a bulletproof vest before heading to the salon where his ex-wife worked as a stylist. He shot and killed Michelle Fournier before turning his gun on the salon's owner and spraying Salon Meritage with bullets. After leaving the building, Dekraai shot and killed a man who was sitting in his car in the parking lot outside, authorities said.

Police arrested Dekraai, who had been locked in a bitter custody dispute with Fournier over their 8-year-old son, within minutes.

"I know what I did," he told an arresting officer, according to a police affidavit.

The killings rocked the tight-knit seaside community of Seal Beach. The salon reopened about a year later, with six of the original employees returning to work.

Since the shootings, victims' relatives have pleaded with the judge at numerous court hearings to hasten the case to trial. In March, Judge Thomas M. Goethals severed the guilt and penalty phases to prevent additional delays as Dekraai's lawyer Scott Sanders argues motions related to prosecutors' efforts to seek the death penalty for his client.

Sanders wants the district attorney's office recused from Dekraai's case and the death penalty taken off the table over allegations that authorities misused jailhouse informants and didn't turn over evidence to defence attorneys. Prosecutors deny wrongdoing and say they will continue to seek the death penalty for Dekraai.

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