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A shocking look at alleged salon killer Scott DeKraai

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SEAL BEACH, Calif. (AP) - The bitter father charged with gunning down his ex-wife and eight others at a beauty salon should have had an idyllic Southern California childhood: He spent his formative years just blocks from the beach with his beloved grandparents, fished from the pier with friends and surfed along the wide, sandy beaches of his hometown.

Scott Dekraai (Photo: Associated Press)

But bad luck and bad blood conspired against Scott Dekraai, turning him into an angry teenager - and an angrier adult - whose life spiraled ever more out of control with each new challenge until, police say, a bitter custody battle over his 8-year-old son triggered his spasm of violence Wednesday.

For years, family members and friends watched Dekraai struggle with rage and mental health problems.

"He was the cutest little kid you'd ever want to see and if you look at his high school pictures, he was a handsome young man," said Max Hinmon, his step-uncle. "But now he's a very emotionless person. He can be very charming and he'll smile at you and you'll think he's the nicest person in the world. But he's got an extreme dark side to him. He'll fly off the handle at any little thing."

Dekraai, 41, showed no emotion Friday at his first court appearance hours after prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty. He postponed entering pleas on eight counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in the rampage at Salon Meritage.

The beauty parlor was packed with customers just after lunch Wednesday when Dekraai, clad in a bulletproof vest, opened fire with at least two handguns, killing his ex-wife Michelle Fournier and seven others, including a man in his car outside the shop, authorities said. An elderly woman having her hair styled by her daughter, who died in the carnage, remains in critical condition.

Arrested just minutes later, the pale, bloated man in handcuffs and an open shirt barely resembled the tan, handsome teen who pitched for his high school baseball team, played football like his dad and spent hours sport-fishing with his grandfather on the Pacific Ocean.

His biological father, Terry Dekraai, who played football at the University of Southern California with OJ Simpson, was hardly in the picture and his mother, Michelle, and stepfather had trouble raising him, Hinmon said.

They had to remove Dekraai's bedroom door because he was trying to have sex with girls when he was as young as 12, said his step-aunt, Sharyn White.

The boy idolized his step-grandfather, Monte Moore, a character who wore an eye patch and was known to some as "Pirate" around Seal Beach. Dekraai was happiest in his company and they shared a special bond, spending hours on the water, said Nancey Kredell, a close family friend.

"He didn't have it easy. His parents weren't together and his grandfather was a big portion of his life. He doted on him, just dearly loved him, and thought he could do no wrong," Kredell said. "He was the one really firm rock."

Dekraai eventually moved in with his grandparents and began accompanying the older man on boating and fishing trips when he was as young as 11 or 12.

He was so passionate about boats that he began working as a young teen at a business that runs fishing, diving and whale watching tours. He eventually joined the payroll as a crewman, said Don Ashley, co-owner of Pierpoint Landing in Long Beach.

He was popular with tourists and other crew members alike and was incredibly fit, finding time to play high school football and baseball while holding down his job.

"He was the most even-keeled, good-natured person. A lot of our groups would say, `Hey, is Scott going to be on the boat today?' They looked forward to him and the crews, the same thing," Ashley said. "When you put five or six people on a boat, a lot of times it's oil and water and they just don't get along. He got along with everybody."

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