By Dan Whitcomb
SEAL BEACH, Calif (Reuters) - Mourners laid flowers at a hair salon in Seal Beach on Thursday, a day after a gunman, identified as the ex-husband of a stylist there, killed eight people in a shooting rampage.
Police named the suspect as 42-year-old Scott Evans Dekraai of nearby Huntington Beach, who was expected to face multiple counts of murder in a mass killing that has been called the worst in Orange County history.
Dekraai's former wife, Michelle Fournier, was a hairstylist at Salon Meritage, friends and business associates said, and the couple, who divorced in 2007, had been embroiled in a child custody battle over their 8-year-old son.
Fournier was among the eight people shot to death on Wednesday, along with a friend, Christy Lynn Wilson, and salon owner Randy Fannin, the Seal Beach Police Department said.
The lone survivor was left in critical condition at Long Beach Memorial Hospital.
"This was not a random act of violence. The suspect knew his intended victim," Seal Beach Acting Police Chief Tim Olson told a news conference on Thursday.
Seal Beach Police and the Orange County District Attorney's Office scheduled a joint press conference for 11 a.m. on Friday, when prosecutors were expected to announce charges against Dekraai.
Attorney Donald Eisenberg, who represented Dekraai in 2007, said there was nothing about his former client or the divorce case that would have foretold the bloodshed on Wednesday.
At the time, both parties stipulated to a child custody agreement, according to court documents.
"I'm terribly saddened because it's wholly irrational behavior," Eisenberg said. "To the best of my knowledge this man dearly loves his son and in a rational world would not do anything to harm him."
TUG BOAT ACCIDENT
Eisenberg said that around the time he filed for divorce, Dekraai was working on a tug boat and had been severely injured trying to save the life of a deck hand in an accident.
Dekraai's leg was crushed below the knee, Eisenberg said, leaving him permanently disabled and with difficulty walking.
"Personally I feel like the accident he endured didn't help his life in any way, shape or form," Eisenberg said. "He had terrible nerve damage throughout his leg, the physical therapy was agony. They were drugging him for pain, which he didn't like."
Dekraai was taken into custody about half a mile from the salon in the heart of Seal Beach -- a town about 20 miles southeast of Los Angeles known by its residents as "Mayberry-by-the-Sea" for its bucolic, small-town feel.
A tearful Jim Watson, who developed the shopping center and still owns the building housing Salon Meritage, stood in front of the shuttered shop, its windows masked with black plastic and closed blinds.
Watson said he was a friend and customer of Fannin.
"I just made a connection with Randy, I liked the way he cut my hair and I liked him as a person," Watson said, adding he had last seen Fannin several weeks earlier.
Watson said he was also a casual acquaintance of several of the hairstylists there, including Dekraai's ex-wife, and was waiting to hear if they had survived.
He said the community of Seal Beach, which had previously experienced only four homicides in the past decade, was shaken by the shooting rampage.
"This a beautiful community, absolutely marvelous, safe and quiet. People are very friendly, most people know each other," Watson said.
Wildflowers and roses were left at the salon's door, along with a poem, written on lined notebook paper, titled "8 souls."
On Thursday night, hundreds of mourners gathered outside Salon Meritage in a candlelight vigil for the victims, the crowd spilling into a nearby street.
The shooting ranks as the worst mass killing in Orange County's history, surpassing the seven killed and two wounded in a shooting by Edward Charles Allaway at Cal State Fullerton in 1976, according to the Orange County Register newspaper.
(Editing by Peter Bohan and Cynthia Johnston)