Families tell court of lives lost at 2018 Parkland school attack

Family members of three of the 17 victims of Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz issued statements Monday about how her 2018 death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland has impacted their lives.

Student Joaquin Oliver’s sister and the families of student Alaina Petty and teacher Scott Beigel spoke in court. Cruz sat at the defense table and occasionally glanced at the video screen in front of him.

The jury also saw three cellphone videos Cruz took in the days leading up to his attack, discussing his plan to kill at least 20 people at Stoneman Douglas, his former school.

They also saw text messages he had sent on the day of the attack, Valentine’s Day, to a former girlfriend expressing his unrequited love for her and to a friend asking if he was going on a date that night could find for him. He did, but the text message to Cruz arrived just as his Uber dropped him off at school.

Our lives have been destroyed and changed foreverPatricia Oliver

Patricia Oliver, Joaquin’s mother, told the jury of seven and five that he was a gentle and kind boy aged 17 who plans to go to college so he could work in sports management. She said that after his death there was an outpouring of love.

“I never thought he had so many friends,” she said. “Our lives have been destroyed and changed forever.”

His older sister Andrea Ghersi said that if she has children, she has to explain to them why they don’t have an uncle.

Alaina Petty’s mother, Kelly, said she loved her brief stint in the school’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she had helped with hurricane recovery the summer before her death.

“She loved her friends, she loved her family and most of all she loved God,” said Kelly Petty.

“She was an angel on earth and she should still be here,” said Alaina’s sister Meghan.

Teacher Scott Beigel’s mother, Linda Schulman, and stepfather, Michael Schulman, spoke about his love of teaching, his students and baseball.


Michael Schulman delivers his victim testimony during the sentencing phase in the trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP/PA)

Michael Schulman said that when he told Scott he wanted to marry his mother, he said his only answer was, “All I ask is that you make my mother happy.”

Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder in October, meaning the jury will only decide whether he should be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.

On Monday, the jury saw the three cellphone videos he took six days before his attack.

In the first two he is not to be seen. Only his voice can be heard.

“Today is the day. Today everything begins. The day of my massacre will begin,” he said in the first. In the second he says: “If you see me on the news, you all know who I am. You will all die… I can barely wait for it.”

In the final video, recorded three days before filming, Cruz speaks to the camera and says he’ll be “the next school shooter of 2018.” He ends the video with gun sounds.

About 90 minutes before the attack, in text messages from his ex-girlfriend, Cruz begins by saying he loves her and then asks, “Do you want me to go away?”

She replied, “You scare me and I want you to leave me alone.” She told him she had a boyfriend. He replied that he didn’t care. When he got to school he wrote her again that he loved her.


Nikolas Cruz previously pleaded guilty to all 17 counts of first degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shooting (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP/PA).

Meanwhile, a friend he’d texted for several hours to possibly get him a date that night also replied that he’d found a girl who would hang out with him. This SMS also arrived when Cruz arrived at the school.

“Too late, man,” Cruz replied. The attack began three minutes later.

The jury will vote 17 times, once for each of the victims, on whether to recommend the death penalty.

For any sentence of death, the jury must be unanimous or the sentence for that victim is life imprisonment.

The jury is told that in order to vote for death, the prosecution’s aggravating circumstances for that victim must, in their opinion, “outweigh” the defense’s mitigations. A jury can also vote for Cruz out of grace for life. Families tell court of lives lost at 2018 Parkland school attack

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