Family Law ~ Next Month Marks 5th Anniversary Largest Mass Murder in History of Orange County California

The largest mass murder in the history of Orange County occurred on October 12, 2011, when Scott Dekraai strapped on a bulletproof vest, armed himself with three high-powered handguns, and walked into the tiny hair salon where his ex-wife worked. Shooting as he walked from station to station, after first  killing her, shocking the normally tranquil seaside community.

Court records show that Dekraai has been involved in a divorce and custody case for five years since 2007 and had been in court for a hearing. Dekraai was seeking full custody of their son, but a court-ordered review had recommended against that. At the time the attorney, John Cate Jr., said the hearing was “benign,” a scheduling meeting. “Obviously, I saw no indication.”

Dekraai was intent on killing his ex-wife and others who were inside the salon, prosecutors said. He is accused of shooting some of his victims multiple times, stopping to reload while people lay dying on the ground. Shooting the last victim sitting in his vehicle outside the salon as he exited the location.

There were about twenty people in the salon at the time of the shooting. Some managed to escape by running into the street or hiding in neighboring businesses. Six people were declared dead at the scene, and three survivors were taken to a hospital where two of them later died from their wounds. Their was only one survivor.

An officer who saw a man who matched the description of the gunman leave the parking lot followed him. The suspect moments later was taken into custody  without incident.

Two and a half years later, on May 02, 2014, Dekraai withdrew his not guilty plea and plead guilty to eight counts of murder and one count of attempt murder. He plead guilty he said to bring peace to the families for what he had done.

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There are headlines around the country nearly every day of shootings, stabbings, abductions, suicides and more that are related to divorce and custody. While there will always be situations where no matter how much we improve the Family Law process some individuals pushed to brink will commit devastating and terrible crimes against their children, their former spouses, relationships and others. But this in no way excuses us of our responsibility to do better in Family Law.

The above is a combined and edited version of the three below articles on the Seal Beach Shooting. To review the articles in full copy and paste  the links into your url.

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Catherine MacWillie is the CEO of Custody Calculations and a Child Custody and Divorce Coach. She has 32 years experience dealing with Family Law. 24 years as a law enforcement officer responding to radio calls dealing with divorce and custody issues and a first responder to child abuse investigations in addition to other related assignments. She spent ten years researching Family Law and divorce including cause, effect, impact, solutions to the many issues that arise during divorce and custody proceedings. The last eight years as a Coach.

She is the past president of Stop Parental Alienation of Children (SPAC). A prior board member of Parental Alienation Awareness Organization (PAAO). An advisory board member of International Support Network of Alienated Families (ISNAF). A member of Parental Alienation Study Group (PASG). A member of the 2014 Parental Alienation Colloquium, Long Beach, California. A member of the 2016 Parental Alienation Think Tank, Beverly Hills, California.

In 2017 her research on divorce, crime and parental alienation will be presented in Prague, Czechoslovakia at the International Academy of Law and Mental Health (IALMH) a prestigious event with participants coming from around the globe to present.

For additional information go to or visit us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,YouTube, Vimeo, or call 702-675-5120.


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