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Families Rip into Parkland Mass Shooter and His Defense Strategy During Emotional Sentencing Hearing: ‘You Are Not a Victim of Anything’


Victim families ripped into Parkland mass shooter Nikolas Jacob Cruz, 24, during his sentencing hearing on Tuesday. Burdened with loss, they often engaged in a common theme: insulting the defendant (and sometimes his attorneys) and voicing outrage at the reality that jurors did not reach a unanimous decision to sentence him to death.

Instead, he will receive a punishment of life without parole for using a semiautomatic rifle to kill 17 people and injure 17 more at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018.

Cruz admittedly murdered 14-year-old student Alyssa Alhadeff; 35-year-old teacher Scott Beigel; 14-year-old student Martin Duque Anguiano; 17-year-old student Nicholas Dworet, 37-year-old assistant football coach Aaron Feis; 14-year-old student Jaime Guttenberg; 49-year-old athletic director Christopher Hixon; 15-year-old student Luke Hoyer; 14-year-old student Cara Loughran; 14-year-old student Gina Montalto; 17-year-old student Joaquin Oliver; 14-year-old student Alaina Petty; 18-year-old student Meadow Pollack; 17-year-old student Helena Ramsayl 14-year-old student Alexander Schachter; 16-year-old student Carmen Schentrup; and 15-year-old student Peter Wang.

David Rabinovitz, a grandfather of Alhadeff, said Cruz won “for now.”

“But that’s not going to happen,” he said. “Because Parkland murderer, there’s going to come a day — it could be a week from now, it could be a month from now, it could be 40 years from now — you’re going to die. When you die, it is my fondest hope that they take you and burn you and take your ashes and throw them in the garbage dump. You know why? Because garbage to garbage. And at that time, Parkland murderer, it is my hope that you go somewhere to meet your maker or whatever it is. And Parkland murderer, I hope your maker sends you directly to hell to burn for the rest of your eternity.”

Cruz pleaded guilty last year to 17 counts each of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder, but prosecutors refused to budge on seeking the death penalty. The state presented evidence in the ensuing penalty phase that Cruz plotted the killings and that he executed it in a fashion to cause maximum physical and emotional harm. His defense said that he lived a challenging life from the womb, with his mother Brenda Woodard abusing drugs and alcohol while pregnant with him.

“How dare you use the excuse that you performed the unthinkable because you had a challenging upbringing?” Vicki Alhadeff, a grandmother of Alyssa Alhadeff, said in a letter read on her behalf.

“You are not a victim of anything,” Christopher Hixon’s sister Natalie Hixon said in court. She called Cruz entitled and out for attention.

“Your defense preyed on the idea of your humanity,” Christopher Hixon’s son Thomas Hixon said. “Yet you had none for those that your encountered on Feb. 14.”

“The defendant and I are the same age,” Alaina Petty’s sister Meghan Petty said. “And I can say for a fact that at the time he murdered Alaina, he was old enough and mentally aware enough to understand the permanence of death, what that meant. He understood how much it hurt from his own personal experiences, and he fully understood what the consequences would be for murdering someone, yet he chose to do it anyway.”

“Altogether, he had well over 200 individual sessions with mental health professionals,” Alexander Schachter’s father Max Schachter said. “Does that sound like somebody that fell off the grid? They tried everything. They couldn’t have given him more services. Over the course of his life, starting at a very young age, he received more than most kids in America will every receive.”

He accused the defense team of seeking “fame and notoriety.”

Joaquin Oliver’s mother Patricia Oliver also addressed her ire toward the entire defense team.

“Shameful, despicable behavior that you people stated loud and clear that killing is not an aggravating factor,” she said. “Then what is?”

Attorney Melisa McNeill of the Broward Public Defender’s Office protested the personal attacks directed at her team.

“The defense is not attempting to curtail the limits of the sentencing proceeding or the rights that the victims’ families have,” she said. “We are not trying to do that. But the state attorney’s office knows that what is happening here is beyond what the victims’ families are constitutionally protected to do. You can say whatever you want to Mr. Cruz. You can attack him and say whatever you want. But your honor knows that what is happening here is not permissible.”

Judge Elizabeth Scherer scoffed.

“Ms. McNeill, stop suggesting that I know that something is impermissible and that I am allowing it to happen,” she said. “You’re finished. I’ve heard you objection. It’s noted.”

[Images via Law&Crime Network]

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