Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP) — Family members of three of the 17 victims of Florida school shooter Nicolas Cruz gave heartbreaking testimony Monday about how their 2018 deaths at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland have affected their lives, Lost loves, lost moments and even blurred memories.
Student Joaquin Oliver’s sister looked at Cruise as he exited the witness stand, while the family of student Alaina Petty and teacher Scott Beigel looked away from her. Cruz sat at the rescue table, looking mostly down but occasionally looking at the video screen in front of him.
The jury also looked at three chilling cellphone videos made by Cruise in the days before his attack, discussing his plan to kill at least 20 people at his former school, Stoneman Douglas. He also saw text messages on Valentine’s Day, the day of the attack, of an ex-girlfriend expressing his unrequited love for him and a friend, asking if he could find a date for her that night. He did, but the text telling Cruz came at the same time that his Uber was going to drop him off to school.
Joaquin’s mother, Patricia Oliver, told a seven-man, five-woman jury and their 10 choices that he was a gentle and kind boy, 17 and a senior planning to attend college so that he could work in sports management. Can you He was already three months away from his graduation planning his wardrobe to see what belt he would wear. She said that after her death there was a flood of love.
“I never knew he had so many friends,” she said holding back her tears. “Our lives are shattered and changed forever.”
His older sister, Andrea Ghersi, tells them that when they have children she will have to explain to them why they don’t have an uncle. His face filled with hatred when he saw Cruz on his way back to his seat.
Victoria Gonzalez brought at least one juror to tears as she spoke of the loss of her “soul mate.” He talked about his love of movies, how he would sing along to the car radio and how he met her at the bus stop with Valentine’s flowers and a stuffed yellow elephant.
Petty’s mother, Kelly, said she liked her little time helping out in the kitchen and in the school’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she helped heal storms the summer before her death.
“She loved her friends, she loved her family and most importantly, she loved God,” said Kelly Petty.
Her sister, Meghan, said that while Alaina was one of four children in her family, in some ways she was the eldest who displayed more maturity than her years. They used to take naps together to watch television.
“She was an angel on earth and she should still be here,” she said. She was crying saying that she could not remember her sister’s voice anymore.
Beigel’s mother, Linda Schulman, and her stepfather, Michael Schulman, talked about their love for teaching, their students, and baseball. His mother said that he got a job teaching at Stoneman Douglas because he agreed to coach the cross-country team—even though he didn’t know how.
Speaking in a strong voice, Linda Schulman said she told her runners that if he taught them about cross-country, he would teach them about life. When his runners missed out on qualifying for the state meet, he asked them what they could do next. She laughed when she said that he told them, “Run fast.” This is the motto of the team.
Michael Shulman said that when he told Scott he wanted to marry his mother, he said his only answer was, “All I want is for you to please my mother.”
Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of first-degree murder, meaning the jury will only decide whether to sentence him to death or life without parole.
Jurors on Monday watched three cellphone videos he made six days before his attack.
He is not visible in the first two. Only his voice is heard.
“Today is that day. Today it all begins. The day of my carnage will begin,” he grieves at first. In the second he says, “You will know who I am when you see me in the news .You’re all about to die. …can’t wait.”
In the final video taken three days before the shooting, Cruz, wearing a ball cap, talks into the camera, saying he’s “going to be the next school shooter of 2018.” He ends the video with the sound of a gun.
In text messages, about 90 minutes before the attack, Cruz tells his ex-girlfriend that he loves her and then asks “Do you want me to move away?”
She replied, “You are scaring me and I want you to leave me alone.” He told her that she had a boyfriend. He replied that he didn’t care. As soon as he reached school, he messaged her once again that he loved her.
Meanwhile, a friend who had probably spent several hours texting him about a date that night also replied that he had found a girl who would hang out with him. That lesson also came when Cruise was attending school.
“It’s too late man,” Cruz replied. The attack began three minutes later.
When jurors find the case, they will vote 17 times, once for each victim, on whether to recommend the death penalty.
For each death sentence, the jury must be unanimous or the sentence for that victim is life. Juries are told that in order to vote for death, the prosecution’s dire circumstances for that victim must, in its judgment, “exceed” the defense’s suppressors. A juror can also vote for Cruz for life out of mercy. During jury selection, the panelists said under oath that they were able to vote for any sentencing.