Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz is to be officially sentenced on Wednesday

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Parents, wives, children and siblings of the 17 people murdered by Parkland school gunner Nikolas Cruz finally got their chance to verbally smack him face-to-face after nearly five years — and those who the opportunity that accepted did not waste it.

More will be heard on Wednesday, the second day of a hearing that will conclude with Cruz being formally sentenced to life in prison without parole for the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in suburban Fort Lauderdale. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer has no choice but to hand down the sentence because the jury in Cruz’s criminal trial could not unanimously agree that he deserved the death penalty.

Members of the victims’ families and some of the 17 wounded who survived walked up to a lectern about 20 feet (6 meters) from Cruz on Tuesday, stared into his eyes and vented their anger and sadness, many with the 24-year-old told of this -old, they hope his remaining years are filled with the fear and pain he caused him. Many also criticized a Florida law that requires jury unanimity to hand down a death sentence — Cruz’s jury voted 9-3 on Oct. 13 for his execution.

“He escaped that punishment because a minority of the jury was given the power to overrule the majority decision of people who could see him for what he is – a ruthless monster who deserves no mercy,” Meghan Petty said. Her younger sister, 14-year-old Alaina, died when Cruz fired his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle into her classroom as he stalked the hallways of a three-story building for seven minutes and fired 140 shots. He had planned the filming for seven months.

“A person has to be incredibly sick to want to hurt another human being. It’s even sicker to dwell on the desire and make a plan, and unimaginably evil to carry out that plan that has not only hurt people but ended lives,” she said. “To add insult to injury, he was even arrogant enough to plan a disguise, believing he could escape his actions while my sister lay dying on the dirty classroom floor.”

Cruz, a former Stoneman-Douglas student and then 19, wore a school shirt so he could blend in with fleeing students when he escaped. An hour later he was arrested.

Cruz, bound and in a red prison jumpsuit, stared at Tuesday’s speakers but showed little emotion.

Anthony Montalto III, whose older sister, 14-year-old Gina, was murdered by a bullet fired at point-blank range in her chest, said he was at the neighboring middle school and heard the gunshots. He said he felt an ache in his chest – he believes it was a sign of his sister’s death.

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

“This reality I live in now 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 alcohol while pregnant. He is not a victim of mental problems. He’s a murderous bastard to be made 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 cookie she had wrapped for her. That afternoon, Helena also died when Cruz shot into her classroom.

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

She said she had mixed feelings before the trial about whether Cruz should get the death penalty, but after hearing the evidence she has no doubt 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 dead as he burst through a door and ran towards Cruz to stop him. The Marine veteran fell to the ground, wounded, and tried to take cover in an alcove, but Cruz walked over and shot him again.

Thomas Hixon, a Navy veteran, recalled that a year ago, Cruz claimed remorse when he pleaded guilty to the murders and set the stage for the criminal trial.

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

Ines Hixon, Thomas’ wife and Navy flight officer, said she was deployed to Iran and was returning from a flight when she saw an email from her husband that his father had been killed. She assumed it was a car accident and only found out after a phone call that he had been shot.

“When he told me what happened, I broke down,” she said, crying. She called Cruz “a domestic terrorist.”

“Through my ministry, I thought I was the one in danger, but it was my family who were murdered at home,” she said. Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz is to be officially sentenced on Wednesday

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