Residents along the quiet Huntington Beach street where the suspected shooter in the Seal Beach rampage lived were in disbelief that their friendly and caring neighbor allegedly killed eight people.
Scott Evans Dekraai allegedly walked into Salon Meritage in Seal Beach on Wednesday and opened fire. It was the deadliest mass killing in Orange County history.
"I thought I knew him well," said Stephanie Malchow, who lives next door to Dekraai. "He always seemed happy."
Malchow said she went to Dekraai's home about two and a half years ago for his wedding to Mindy, his new wife.
Dekraai was "very emotional and super happy," recalled Malchow.
Dekraai didn't speak badly of his ex-wife, whom he was apparently targeting when he went to the Seal Beach salon, but told Malchow he was devastated that she didn't even visit him while in the hospital for treatment for a leg injury. The two were reportedly in the middle of a custody battle.
But Malchow said he was happy to have found someone and to have fallen in love again.
"He really loved his wife," Malchow said.
Dekraai also loved his son, whom he fathered with his ex-wife, and the two often played with their dog, the neighbor said.
Malchow's 3-year-old daughter also played with Dekraai's son.
"I still can't believe it," she said. "It's really awful. It's not something I thought he would ever do. He was always a nice, caring person."
Malchow said she's sad for the families of those who were lost, but mostly sad for Dekraai's son, who now appears to have lost his mother to death and his father to the legal system. A friend of Dekraai's ex-wife, Michelle Fournier, confirmed she was among the victims.
"I feel like something must've happened to push him over the edge, but the end result is his son is the one suffering," Malchow said.
As she stood over a table with pins, needles and a piece of cloth in front of her garage, Clare Witt, who was sewing a Halloween jacket for her husband, said she can't believe what happened.
"I'm pretty freaked out," she said. "Our neighbor murdered eight people yesterday."
Though she didn't know him well, Witt, who goes all out for Halloween with her husband, said she last spoke to Dekraai about two weeks ago when his son, who was riding a bike, fell in her front yard garden.
Dekraai was friendly, she said.
"He said, 'Hey, I wanted to see what you guys are going to do for Halloween this year,'" Witt said.
"He obviously snapped," Witt said. "It's kind of a shame that we don't know our neighbors well, because sometimes all someone needs is a kind word to get them over what they were thinking."
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