Parkland killer gets life, but families get their say

Parkland killer gets life, but families get their say

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (UKTN) – Parents, wives, children and siblings of the 17 people killed by school shooter Nikolas Cruz in Parkland finally got the chance to verbally beat him up after nearly five years — and those who didn’t miss the opportunity .

More will get their chance on the second day of a hearing on Wednesday that will end with Cruz formally sentenced to life without parole for the Valentine’s Day 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in suburban Fort Lauderdale. Circuit judge Elizabeth Scherer has no choice but to impose that sentence, as the jury in Cruz’s criminal trial did not unanimously agree that he deserved the death penalty.

Members of the victims’ families and some of the 17 injured who survived went to a lectern about 20 feet from Cruz on Tuesday, stared into his eyes and expressed their anger and grief, many told the 24-year-old. they hope his remaining years are filled with the fear and pain he inflicted. Many also criticized a Florida law that requires jury unanimity to impose a death sentence — Cruz’s jurors voted 9-3 on Oct. 13 for his execution.

“He escaped this punishment because a minority of the jury was given the power to overturn the majority decision of people who could see him for what he is – a ruthless monster who deserves no mercy,” said Meghan Petty. sister, 14-year-old Alaina, died when Cruz fired his AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle at her classroom while walking the hallways of a three-story building for seven minutes, firing 140 rounds. for seven months.

“A person has to be incredibly sick to want to hurt another human being. Even sicker to dwell on the desire and come up with a plan and unimaginably evil to execute that plan, which not only hurt people but ended lives,” she said. escape while my sister lay dying on a dirty classroom floor.”

Cruz, a former student of Stoneman Douglas and then 19, wore a school shirt so he could mingle with fleeing students as he escaped. An hour later he was arrested.

Cruz, shackled and dressed in red prison overalls, stared at Tuesday’s speakers, but showed little emotion.

Anthony Montalto III, whose older sister, 14-year-old Gina, was killed by a bullet in her chest, said he was at the neighboring high school and heard the shots. He said he felt pain in his chest – he believes it was a sign of his sister’s death.

“To go from a younger brother to an only child…is a dramatic change for everyone,” he said. He then criticized the defense’s claim that excessive drinking by Cruz’s birth mother during pregnancy caused brain damage that led to a lifetime of erratic and sometimes violent behavior that culminated in the shooting.

“The reality I now live in is an unfortunate truth. An even more unfortunate truth is that this country has forgotten who the victim is. The killer is not a victim of drinking during pregnancy. He is not a victim of mental health problems. He’s a killer bastard you should be an example of,” Montalto said.

Anne Ramsay shared the last text she received from her 17-year-old daughter Helena, thanking her for the Valentine’s Day cookie she packed for her. Helena also died that afternoon when Cruz shot at her classroom.

“She was a sweet girl, an angel,” Ramsay said.

She said she had mixed feelings about whether Cruz would receive the death penalty before the trial, but after hearing the evidence she has no doubts that it would have been the appropriate sentence.

“You’re pure evil,” she told Cruz.

Thomas Hixon’s father, athletic director Chris Hixon, was shot when he burst through a door and ran toward Cruz in an attempt to stop him. The Navy veteran fell to the ground wounded and tried to take cover in a niche, but Cruz walked over and shot him again.

Thomas Hixon, a naval veteran, recalls Cruz expressing regret a year ago when he pleaded guilty to the murders, paving the way for the criminal trial.

“Where were your regrets when you saw my father lying wounded and bleeding on the floor and decided to shoot him a third time?” Hixon told Cruz. “Your defense hunted for the idea of ​​your humanity, but you had none for those you encountered on February 14.”

Ines Hixon, Thomas’s wife and a naval flight officer, said she had been deployed off the coast of Iran and had returned from a flight when she saw an email from her husband that his father had been murdered. She assumed it was a car accident, but only found out on a phone call that he had been shot.

“When he told me what had happened, I fell to the ground,” she said, crying. She called Cruz “a domestic terrorist.”

“Because of my shift, I thought I was the one in danger, but it was my family who got killed at home,” she said.

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UKTN writer Freida Frisaro in Miami contributed to this story.