FORT LAUDERDALE, FL– Parkland school gunman Nikolas Cruz’s two-day hearing began Tuesday when the families of the 17 people he murdered were given their first chance to speak to him directly, using emotional and often angry terms to describe the devastation to describe the things he had brought into her life.
Debra Hixon — the wife of athletic director Chris Hixon, a Navy veteran who died trying to stop the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — was the first to reach out to Cruz. The killer wore a bright red prison jumpsuit and showed no emotion behind a face mask.
“You stole it from us and you didn’t get the justice you deserved,” Debra Hixon said. “There is no extenuating circumstance that outweighs the vile and cruel manner in which you stole it from us.”
Chris Hixon was wounded and fell to the ground where Cruz shot him again. He spent more than 10 minutes trying to get back on his feet before dying.
“You have received a gift, a gift of grace and mercy — something you have not shown any of your victims,” Debra Hixon told Cruz. “I wish you nothing today. After today, I don’t care what happens to you. You will be sent to prison, you will begin your sentence, you will be a number, and to me you will cease to exist.”
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Family members and a teacher told Cruz they were disappointed by the jury’s sentencing recommendation, which sentenced him to life in prison instead of killing him.
“We hope that you, the monster that did this to our son, endure a painful existence in your remaining days. Unfortunately, whatever pain you endure in prison will only be a fraction of what Ben endured,” said Eric Wikander, the father of student Ben Wikander, who has had seven surgeries.
Stacey Lippel, a wounded teacher, told Cruz she was “broken and changed.”
“Because of you, I check all exits wherever I am,” Lippel said. “Because of you, I’m thinking about the worst-case scenario for me and my family. Because of you, I’ll never feel safe again,” Lippel said. “I have no forgiveness in my heart for you. You are a monster with no regrets and every breath you take is a wasted breath.”
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After the families of Cruz’s dead and 17 wounded finish their speeches, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer will officially sentence him to life in prison without parole on Wednesday. She is left with no choice as the jury in her recently concluded criminal trial failed to unanimously agree that the 24-year-old former Stoneman-Douglas student deserved a death sentence.
The families made emotional statements during the trial but were limited in what they could tell the jury. They could only describe their loved ones and the toll the murders were taking on their lives. The wounded could only say what had happened to them.
They were forbidden from speaking directly to Cruz or saying anything about him – violating them would have risked a lawsuit. And the jury was told they could not consider the family’s statements as aggravating factors as they weighed whether Cruz should die.
One family member who chose not to speak directly to Cruz is Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was shot in the back while trying to escape.
He tweeted Tuesday that addressing “the monster” that murdered his daughter, the defense team he believes “gave up their humanity” to defend him, or the teacher wouldn’t change anything , who he says feigned heroism.
Cruz’s attorneys say he is not expected to speak. He apologized in court last year after pleading guilty to the murders and attempted murders, but families told reporters they aimed the apology to garner sympathy.
That plea set the stage for a three-month criminal trial that ended October 13, with the jury voting 9-3 in favor of a death sentence. The jury said those voting for life believe Cruz has a mental illness and should be spared. Under Florida law, a death sentence requires unanimity.
Prosecutors argued Cruz planned the shooting for seven months before slipping into a three-story classroom and firing 140 rounds with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle through hallways and into classrooms. He fatally shot some wounded victims after they fell. Cruz said he chose Valentine’s Day so it could never be celebrated at Stoneman Douglas again.
Cruz’s attorneys focused on their belief that his birth mother’s heavy drinking during pregnancy had brain-damaged him and condemned him to a life of erratic and sometimes violent behavior that culminated in the massacre — the deadliest mass shooting in the United States to date court was brought.
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https://abc13.com/parkland-shooting-nikolas-cruz-sentencing-school-shooter-parents/12405059/ Nikolas Cruz Sentencing: Families are reaching out to Parkland school gunman as he has been sentenced to life in prison