By Mary Slosson
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A former tugboat worker will stand trial in October on charges of killing his ex-wife and seven others at a California hair salon in the largest mass slaying in Orange County history, a judge ruled on Friday.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals scheduled the trial of Scott Evans Dekraai, 42, to begin on October 15, almost exactly a year after the October 12, 2011, shooting rampage.
Prosecutors, however, expressed doubt that the trial would begin on time.
Prosecutors said Dekraai, who has pleaded not guilty to eight counts of murder, was locked in a bitter child custody battle with his ex-wife Michelle Fournier when he walked into Salon Meritage in Seal Beach carrying three guns and opened fire.
Fournier, 48, was killed, along with salon owner Randy Fannin, 62, and five other people inside the salon. Prosecutors said Dekraai shot his victims at close range, several of them multiple times as they lay dying.
Harriet Stretz, 73, who was in a chair having her hair styled by her daughter, Laura Lee Elody, at the time of the shooting, survived her wounds. Elody, 46, was among the dead.
After leaving the salon, Dekraai shot dead 64-year-old David Caouette, who was sitting in his sport utility vehicle parked outside the salon, prosecutors said.
Dekraai was arrested just blocks from the bloody scene in Seal Beach, a bucolic beachside community about 20 miles southeast of Los Angeles that had experienced only four homicides in the past decade.
(Reporting By Mary Slosson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)