Nikolas Cruz pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing 17 people during a rampage at his former high school in Parkland, Florida, so a jury will decide whether he will be executed for carrying out one of the deadliest school shootings in the US.
Relatives of the victims who sat in the courtroom and watched the trial via Zoom shook their heads or cried as Cruz confessed to his crimes and later apologized for his crimes.
“Today we witnessed a cold-blooded and calculating killer admit to killing my daughter Gina and 16 other innocent victims at their school,” said Tony Montalto. “Her guilty plea was the first step in the judicial process but nothing has changed for my family. Our smart, beautiful and beloved daughter Gina has passed away while the killer is still enjoying the blessings of life in prison,” he said.
Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was killed in the shooting, said he visited his daughter’s grave this week to ask for strength to pass Wednesday’s trial.
“He was the toughest and wisest person I have ever known,” he said. “My daughter always fights for what’s right. My daughter hates bullies and stands up for bullies to stop them.”
The guilty plea will determine a sentencing trial in which 12 jurors will determine whether Cruz, 23, should be sentenced to death or life imprisonment without parole. Given the fame of the case, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer plans to screen thousands of potential jurors. Jury selection is scheduled throughout November and December, with the aim of starting testimony in January.
Cruz made his confession after answering a long list of questions from Scherer to confirm his mental health. He was charged with 17 murders and 17 attempted first-degree murder of those injured in the February 14, 2018 attack, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, located just outside Fort Lauderdale.
While some parents shook their heads, Cruz apologized, saying, “I really regret what I did… Sometimes I feel like I can’t live” He also added that he left it to the survivors to decide whether to live or die.
Cruz’s attorney announced Cruz’s intention to plead guilty in a trial last week. [my/lt]