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Custody dispute seen as motive in shooting at California beauty salon

October 13, 2011 |  3:29 am

Salon shootings

A custody dispute may have been at the center of a mass shooting that left eight people dead at a Seal Beach, Calif., hair salon.

Police on Wednesday night had not released the alleged gunman's name or the identities of the victims, nor had they established a motive.

But friends and witnesses who knew the salon employees said the alleged gunman was Scott Dekraai and he appeared to be targeting his former wife, who was a stylist at Salon Meritage. They said the couple had been involved in a bitter custody dispute involving their son.

Full coverage: Deadly shooting at Seal Beach hair salon

Dekraai, 41, allegedly stormed into the salon about 1:30 p.m. and appeared to be looking for his former wife, Michelle Fournier, according to friends and witnesses. Dekraai is a resident of Huntington Beach. It was unclear whether Fournier was among those killed.

According to Los Angeles County Superior Court documents, Dekraai initiated a divorce case in 2007 against Fournier, whose last name was then Dekraai, court spokeswoman Mary Hearn said. A judge ruled that all contact between the couple had to be via text or email, except for a 10-minute phone call once a week to discuss their child's education and well-being.

At the time of the court dispute, Hearn said, it appeared that Dekraai was awarded custody and Fournier had to comply with several conditions to see the child, such as to not consume alcohol 24 hours before visiting. In August 2010, the case was transferred to Orange County Superior Court at Dekraai's request, according to Hearn.

Fournier always seemed to be in a great mood and enjoyed her children, said Judy Rodriguez Watson, co-owner of the Bay City Center where the salon is located. "She was a sweet, sweet, loving happy mama," Watson said. "She was always showing off photos of her kids."

She said she believes Fournier has three sons.


Makeshift memorial set up

Photos from the scene of the Seal Beach shooting

Witness says of gunman: ‘Anybody he saw he was shooting’

--Nicole Santa Cruz, Tony Barboza, Robert J. Lopez and Tony Barboza

Photo: A city police officer speaks to people at the scene of Wednesday’s deadly shooting. Witnesses said the gunman was the ex-husband of a stylist at the Salon Meritage. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times / October 13, 2011)