Sole survivor of Seal Beach salon shooting opens up for 1st time

Thursday, October 13, 2016
Sole survivor of Seal Beach salon shooting speak for 1st time
The sole survivor of a 2011 mass shooting at a salon in Seal Beach opened up about the horrifying experience.

SEAL BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- The sole survivor of a 2011 mass shooting at a salon in Seal Beach opened up about the horrifying experience.

Nine people were gunned down in two minutes at Salon Meritage on Oct. 12, 2011. Sole survivor Hattie Stretz did her first television interview on Wednesday, five years after the massacre.

"The only noise that I can remember from that day is the pop, pop, pop, pop," Stretz said. "I have to tell you that this fifth year is the hardest year."

Stretz lost her 46-year-old daughter Laura Webb Elody, who worked at the salon.

"I haven't seen her for five years. I haven't held her for five years," Stretz said. "She was my baby."

Elody was married for less than five months when Scott Dekraai entered the salon. He first shot and killed his ex-wife Michelle Fournier. The two were involved in a child custody battle. Then he continued shooting.

Stretz was standing by her daughter's work station about to get her nails done. Dekraai ended up shooting Stretz in the upper body. She said at first she didn't realize she had been shot.

"I had this searing pain in my heart, and I looked down at my arm and it was just hanging in shreds," she said.

She said a bullet entered her arm then went through her left breast. She said she slumped and pretended to be dead, feeling someone next to her.

"I heard them take their last breath. I thought it was Laura, but it was really Victoria," she said.

Victoria Buzzo, 54, was her daughter's friend. She was killed, along with Stretz's daughter, Randy Fannin, 62, Michele Fast, 47, Lucia Kondas, 65, Christy Wilson, 47, and David Caouette, 64.

Dekraai was found right after the massacre - about half a mile away - and he confessed to police.

In 2014, he pleaded guilty to the murders but has yet to be sentenced.

"It's very frustrating. You know, he pleads guilty before everyone in court, and then we have to go through all of this - years," Stretz said.

The case has been bogged down in part of what's become known as Orange County's snitch scandal.

Dekraai's defense attorney found prosecutors and deputies illegally using a jailhouse informant to get evidence against him after he already had an attorney.

The judge removed the entire district attorney's office from the case, and the ruling is under appeal.

On Monday, the 4th District Court of Appeals is expected to consider whether the D.A.'s Office should be restored as prosecutor.

Stretz, unlike some of the other victims, does not want to see him die. She said she would rather see him sentenced to life in prison without parole, so they don't have to keep coming back to court.

She said she's never believed in the death penalty. Her family members are all supporters of Proposition 62, which would repeal the death penalty.

"I don't think that really serves any purpose, and it doesn't bring my daughter back," she said.

The 78-year-old said it's a miracle she survived and that her husband Tom is still with her. She initially thought he had been killed, but he had just left the salon before Dekraai entered.

Since the tragedy, Stretz has suffered a massive stroke, has two new grandchildren - one named after Laura - and two great grandchildren.

Stretz said she marked the fifth anniversary of the tragedy by spending the day with close friends and family. They planned to visit the memorial that sits near the Seal Beach Pier to honor the shooting victims.

It was a reminder of the good in other people.

"It was amazing. The outpouring of love and affection for us," she said.