SANTA ANA ( — Scott Dekraai, the man charged with the worst mass killing in Orange County’s history, pleaded guilty Friday to eight counts of murder.

Dekraai, a 44-year-old former tugboat operator from Huntington Beach, fatally shot his ex-wife and seven others at Salon Meritage in Seal Beach in 2011.

“Two-and-half years later, to finally sit in the courtroom and hear him admit guilt, its reality again all over for me,” Paul Wilson, a victim’s husband, said.

Defense lawyer Scott Sanders told an Orange County court during a hearing Monday that his client would enter the plea to spare the victims’ families from enduring a trial.

The plea clears the way for his defense attorney to focus on an evidentiary hearing.

Defense attorneys allege widespread governmental misconduct in how investigators collected evidence with the help of jailhouse snitches.

A jury will decide whether to sentence Dekraai to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole at a later date.

“Today’s been one of the best days I’ve been here. I think the only thing that could top is hearing the judge say he’s getting the death penalty, and I will be there,” Butch Fournier, the brother of a victim, said.

Dekraai’s trial was scheduled to start June 9.

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