SEAL BEACH, Calif. – Scott Dekraai's neighbors considered him one of the friendliest guys on the block, a man who invited them over for pool parties and played catch with his son in his yard. Friends of his ex-wife, though, say she lived in fear of the man now accused of gunning down her and seven other people at the hair salon where she worked.
He suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from a 2007 tugboat accident that mangled his leg and left a colleague dead. His marriage to Michelle Fournier was falling apart even before that, and the court battle over their 7-year-old son was still raging Wednesday, when Dekraai is accused of spraying the Salon Meritage with gunfire.
Among those killed was Fournier, his ex-wife. The salon's popular owner, Randy Fannin, also died.
Fournier's boyfriend, Michael Warzybok, said that at a court hearing Tuesday a judge had pressed Dekraai to explain why he needed more time with his son than his current custody arrangement called for. Warzybok said a court-appointed psychologist had found the roughly 50-50 arrangement was working.
"All of a sudden, he didn't get his way," said Warzybok, who was interviewed by the psychologist along with Fournier's co-workers.
Dekraai had also asked Fournier to meet for coffee Wednesday, the day of the shootings, but she said no.
Fournier had indicated to friends and in court documents that she was afraid of her ex-husband. Her friend Sharyn White said that just weeks before the killings, she told her that Dekraai had stopped by the salon and threatened to kill her and others.
White, who is also Dekraai's step-aunt, said Fournier told her she took the threat seriously though others in the salon laughed it off. She said Fournier also had told her that when they were still married Dekraai had once held a gun to her head.
There is no sign that Fournier sought a restraining order against her ex-husband, though other friends agree she was afraid.
"As recently as a month ago, she told me how scared she was and I offered to hire her bodyguards," said Tim Terbush, a longtime friend. He said she turned him down because she feared that would only make Dekraai more angry.
Six women and two men were killed in the shooting in the quaint seaside town of Seal Beach, which had had only one homicide in the previous four years. A wounded woman was hospitalized in critical condition, although police Sgt. Steve Bowles said Thursday she was showing signs of improvement.
Police released the names of the dead Thursday evening.
Officers who arrived within minutes of reports of shots fired encountered a horrific scene, with bodies of victims scattered throughout the salon and a man bleeding in the parking lot outside.
Police arrested Dekraai, 41, about a half-mile from the scene. He put up no resistance and was being held without bail Thursday.
Throughout Seal Beach and the nearby city of Huntington Beach, where Dekraai lived, his bitter custody battle with Fournier was common knowledge among friends of both.
Still, neighbors were stunned that the friendly man who held pool parties in his backyard and doted on his son might be responsible for what police said was the worst tragedy in the city's 96-year history.
In court documents filed in February, Dekraai said he had 56 percent custody of his son and his ex-wife had 44 percent. He wanted the court to grant him "final decision making authority" when it came to matters involving their son's education and his medical and psychological treatment.
In court documents filed in May, Fournier described her ex-husband as "almost manic" when it came to controlling their son.
She said Dekraai "is a diagnosed bipolar individual who has problems with his own medication and his reaction to same, and he certainly shouldn't be allowed to have unilateral and unfettered control of any and all medical and psychological aspects of our son's life."
She said then that giving Dekraai such authority would be akin to "a situation where the inmates are running the asylum."