Report: Custody battle led to California salon shooting

Was custody battle shooting motive?
Scott Evans Dekraai

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Story highlights

  • The suspect's ex-wife was reportedly among those killed
  • Report: Neighbors say the two were involved in a custody battle
  • Police have not divulged a motive in the shooting
  • Six people were found dead inside the salon; two others later died

A custody battle may have provided the motive for a deadly shooting at a Southern California hair salon that left eight people dead, according to affiliate reports.

A ninth person, a woman, was critically injured in the incident about 1:21 p.m. Wednesday at Salon Meritage in Seal Beach, California, police said. Officers responding to the sound of shots fired at the salon found six people -- a man and five women -- dead inside the business. Three people were taken to a hospital, where two more -- a man and a woman -- died from their injuries, Seal Beach police Sgt. Steve Bowles told reporters Wednesday.

The suspect, 42-year-old Scott Evans De Kraai of Huntington Beach, was arrested without incident as he was trying to leave the scene in a vehicle, a police statement said. He faces multiple counts of murder, according to police.

Authorities have not divulged a motive for the shootings, but CNN affiliate KTLA reported that De Kraai's ex-wife, Michelle, was a stylist at the salon, and that the two were involved in a custody battle over their son.

Michelle De Kraai was among those killed in the shooting, according to KTLA.

Salon massacre rocks seaside town
Crime scene tape at a mini mall where a deadly shooting occurred at Salon Meritage in Seal Beach, leaving eight people dead, one critically wounded and the alleged gunman in custody in Seal Beach

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Cops: Several dead in salon shooting
Cops: Several dead in salon shooting

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Cops: Several dead in salon shooting 00:55
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Scott De Kraai's neighbors told the station that he moved into his Huntington Beach home with his son several years ago, but that he was upset about having joint custody of the child. "I know there was a custody battle," neighbor Jo Cornhall told KTLA.

One of Michelle De Kraai's neighbors, who was not named, told KTLA that she took out a restraining order against her ex-husband on Tuesday.

An online search of Orange County court records shows Scott and Michelle De Kraai filed for divorce in 2007, but activity in the case continued through this week. A child custody evaluator was appointed by the court in April, records show.

Not everyone in the salon was shot, Bowles said Wednesday. "It appears that the salon was busy at the time, and it appears as if almost every hair station was occupied," he added.

The people shot appeared to be seeking shelter or cover during the shooting, Bowles said. Victims were scattered throughout the salon, and one victim was found outside, although it wasn't known whether he was shot outside or inside, Bowles said.

The suspect was arrested by police a half mile from the salon as he was driving a vehicle, Bowles said.

"We don't have the make and the model of the weapon" used in the shooting, he said, although a weapon was recovered at the time of the suspect's arrest.

Police don't know whether the gunman said anything as he opened fire.

Gunshot wounds were "at all different locations on the bodies," Bowles said.

The Salon Meritage is located on the Pacific Coast Highway in Seal Beach, which is a "small" and "fairly intimate" coastal town. "We have multiple years with zero homicides, so this obviously is an unusual and tragic circumstance," Bowles said.

The shooting is the deadliest in Orange County history, KTLA said. In 1976, Edward Charles Allaway shot nine people, killing seven, at California State University Fullerton.