AP

Parkland school killer formally sentenced to life in prison

Nov 1, 2022, 9:05 PM | Updated: Nov 3, 2022, 9:21 am

Manuel Oliver gives his victim impact statement during the sentencing hearing for Marjory Stoneman ...

Manuel Oliver gives his victim impact statement during the sentencing hearing for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Oliver's son, Joaquin Oliver, was killed in the 2018 shootings. Cruz formally received a sentence of life without parole Wednesday after families of his 17 slain victims spent two days berating him as evil, a coward, a monster and a subhuman. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)

(Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz formally received a sentence of life without parole Wednesday after families of his 17 slain victims spent two days berating him as evil, a coward, a monster and a subhuman who deserves a painful death.

Cruz, shackled and in a red jail jumpsuit, showed no emotion as Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer pronounced one-by-one 34 consecutive life sentences — one each for the slain and the 17 he wounded during the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in suburban Fort Lauderdale.

The judge’s voice broke as she read the first sentences, but she gained strength and volume she moved down the list. Scherer had no other choice in sentencing; the jury in Cruz’s three-month penalty trial voted 9-3 on Oct. 13 to sentence him to death, but Florida law requires unanimity for that sentence to be imposed.

Scherer made no comments directed at Cruz beyond what was legally required. Instead, the judge commended the victims’ families and the wounded, calling them strong, graceful and patient.

“I know you are going to be OK, because you have each other,” Scherer said.

Some parents and other family members of the slain wept as she spoke. When she finished and Cruz was led from the courtroom, one father muttered “Good riddance.” They then gathered into groups and hugged each other.

Cruz, 24 and a former Stoneman Douglas student, pleaded guilty last year to the massacre, where he stalked a three-story classroom building for seven minutes, firing 140 shots with a semi-automatic rifle. He will be taken within days to the Florida prison system’s processing center near Miami before he is assigned to a maximum-security facility. Experts say he will likely be placed into protective custody, perhaps for years, before he is released into the prison’s general population.

The sentencing came after the families and the wounded spent two days verbally thrashing Cruz while mourning their loved ones. Many wished him a painful demise and lamented that he could not be sentenced to death. Others said that after leaving court Wednesday, they would try not to think of him again.

“Real justice would be done if every family here were given a bullet and your AR-15 and we got to pick straws, and each one of us got to shoot one at a time at you, making sure that you felt every bit of it,” Linda Beigel Schulman said. Her son, teacher Scott Beigel, was shot in the back as he led students to safety in his classroom.

She told him that his fear would mount, “until the last family member who pulled that last straw had the privilege of making sure that they killed you.”

Fred Guttenberg told the court that last week he finally watched the security video of the shooting, witnessing his 14-year-old daughter Jaime get to within one step of a stairway door and safety when Cruz’s bullet hit her in the spine.

“I saw you enjoy it,” he told Cruz. He said he then went to Jaime’s grave and asked her for guidance.

“I walked away from the cemetery realizing that no matter the verdict, nothing changed. Jaime is still in the cemetery,” he said. “I am still a dad who every day dreamed of walking his daughter down the aisle and now I have to face a lifetime of reality that I won’t.”

Victoria Gonzalez, whose boyfriend Joaquin Oliver was murdered as he lay wounded on the floor, told Cruz she had once sat near him in a class. She told him she felt sorry every day for him then, knowing that he struggled. His attorneys said that his birth mother’s heavy drinking left him with brain damage — an assertion the prosecution and the families rejected.

“I was rooting for you,” Gonzalez told Cruz, telling him she would cross her fingers when the teacher asked him a question, hoping he would get it right and feel accomplishment. Back then her life was happy, she had friends: “Joaquin loved me for all my flaws.”

Now, she says, because of what Cruz did, she can no longer get close to anyone because she fears loss, no matter what her outside appearance says.

“I do blame you — not you alone — but definitely you,” she said. She recalled listening to a medical examiner describing Oliver’s gruesome head wound. “I will live with that — and you will live with that indifferently.”

Several parents over the two days said they would petition the Legislature to change the state’s death penalty law so that jury unanimity is no longer needed for a judge to impose a death sentence.

“Do we now have closure? Let me be clear, absolutely not,” said Dr. Ilan Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was killed when Cruz fired into her classroom. “What I see is that the system values this animal’s life over the 17 now dead. Worse, we sent the message to the next killer out there that the death penalty would not be applied to mass killing. This is wrong and needs to be fixed immediately.”

___

Associated Press writers Freida Frisaro and David Fischer in Miami contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

3 days ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

4 days ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

11 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

12 days ago

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, and Kenya's Defense Minister Aden Duale, left, listen during...

Associated Press

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hospitalized with bladder issue

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized following symptoms pointing to an “emergent bladder issue."

13 days ago

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church, stands with his wife, Victoria Osteen, as he conducts a...

Associated Press

Woman firing rifle killed by 2 off-duty officers at Houston’s Lakewood Church run by Joel Osteen

A woman entered the Texas megachurch of Joel Osteen and started shooting with a rifle Sunday and was killed by two off-duty officers.

14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

Parkland school killer formally sentenced to life in prison