The gut-wrenching testimony of grieving parents whose children were killed in the Parkland massacre was even too much for the shooter’s own lawyers to bear in court on Tuesday.
Two public defenders representing gunman Nikolas Cruz could be seen wiping tears while listening to the parents tell through sobs how their client had ruined their lives and stolen their children’s.
Assistant Public Defenders Tamara Curtis and Attorney Nawal Najet Bashiman were both visibly upset during the victim impact statements.
The parents had been asked to speak as part of the sentencing phase of Cruz’s trial, where a jury will decide if he should be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.
If they do recommend death, Judge Elizabeth Scherer will make the final decision, likely sometime in the fall.
Now 23, Cruz was emotionless throughout the hearing.
Attorney Nawal Najet Bashiman wipes away tears while listening to parents tell of their grief in court yesterday. The jury listening to those parents’ victim impact statement will decide whether to sentence Cruz to life in prison or death
Attorney Nawal Najet Bashiman blowing her nose during yesterday’s testimony from grieving parents. Cruz, emotionless, kept his head down
Other members of Cruz’s public defense team on Tuesday crying into tissues while listening to the parents giving impact statements
Assistant Public Defender Tamara Curtis wipes her eyes during victim impact statements in the penalty phase of the trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz
Tamara Curtis clasps her hands and closes her eyes while listening to the parents give victim impact statements yesterday
It has now been four years since he opened fire at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School, killing 17 people in a Valentine’s Day massacre.
The lawyers cried during the testimony of Luke Hoyer’s mother Gina.
She said he was her ‘miracle baby’ and her ‘Lukey Bear’, who had yelled down that Valentine´s Day morning to thank her for the card and Skittles she´d placed in his bathroom. The gifts stayed there for a year.
His father, Tom, said he never saw his son that morning, but yelled up ‘Have a good day’ as he hurried to work.
‘That is the kind of exchange you have when you think you have tomorrow,’ he said.
Fred Guttenberg, who has become a national advocate for tighter gun laws, said he regrets that the last words he said to his 14-year-old daughter Jaime weren’t ‘I love you’ but instead, ‘You gotta go, you are going to be late’.
His son survived the massacre but Jamie didn’t. He told the court his son was angry at him for telling him to run when he called him to say there was a gunman, instead of telling him to find his sister.
His wife, Jennifer Guttenberg, said that while her daughter was known for her competitive dancing, she volunteered with the Humane Society and with special needs children.
She planned to be a pediatric physical therapist.
Annika Dworet, her husband Mitch sitting somberly at her side, told the jurors about their son Nick, who was 17 when he died.
A star swimmer, he had accepted a scholarship to the University of Indianapolis and was training in hopes of competing for his mother’s native Sweden in the 2020 Olympics. His younger brother, Alex, was wounded in the shooting.
‘He was always inclusive of everyone. On his last evening with us, he spent time speaking to the younger kids on the swim team, giving them some pointers.’
Now, she said, the family will always live ‘with excruciating pain’. ‘We have an empty bedroom in our house. There is an empty chair at our dining table. Alex will never have a brother to talk or hang out with.
Theresa Robinovitz, the grandmother of one of the kids killed, said that anger she feels ‘has replaced the pure joy of living each day’
Annika Dworet wipes away tears as her husband, Mitch, looks towards the defendant after giving their witness impact statement during the penalty phase of the trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz
Lori Alhadeff looks towards the defendant as Ilan Alhadeff speaks angrily while giving his victim impact statement during the penalty phase of the trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale
Ilan Alhadeff is comforted as he returns to his seat after giving his victim impact statement. He told the jury his heart had been ‘ripped out of his chest’ by Cruz’s rampage which killed his daughter
Broward County Sheriff’s Office crime lab manger George Bello holds the weapon used by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz as he testifies during the penalty phase in Cruz’s trial at the Broward County Courthouse
Victim Advocate Director Ta’Veca Collins holds a photograph of Carmen Schentrup before reading a victim impact statement on behalf of the Schentrup family. Some parents were too upset to speak
Judge Elizabeth Scherer will make the final decision on whether Cruz is sentenced to life in prison or death
Cruz, now 23, speaking with his attorney yesterday. He pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and is now awaiting sentencing
Some students evacuated the school oblivious of the active shooting incident in one of the three-story buildings. Cruz fired 139 rounds before abandoning his rifle and blending in with other students
‘They will never again go for a drive, blasting very loud music. We did not get to see Nick graduate from high school or college. We will never see him getting married.
‘We will always hesitate before answering the question, “How many kids do you have?”
Dr. Ilan Alhadeff said he was still ‘living in anger’.
He screamed: ‘My first-born daughter, daddy’s girl was taken from me!’
‘I get to watch my friends, my neighbors, colleagues spend time enjoying their daughters, enjoying all the normal milestones, taking in the normal joys and I only get to watch videos or go to the cemetery to see my daughter.’
‘This is not normal! My heart was ripped out of my damn chest! ‘Inside I burn like a damn inferno. It took me so long to feel empathy again.
‘I’m left with a feeling of emptiness. I look around our home and see photo albums that will never be filled.’
Alyssa’s grandmother, Theresa Robinovitz, began her tearful statement by saying ‘living after the death of a child is beyond tears.’
Breaking down, she said she’s been seeing a psychologist for depression and anxiety since her grandchild was killed.
The Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
On February 14, 2018, when then-19-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, 17 people were killed, including three teachers. Another 17 were injured.
Alyssa Alhadeff, 14
Alyssa was a soccer player for Parkland Travel Soccer
Scott Beigel, 35
Biegel was a geography teacher who was killed as he tried to direct students back to his classroom when the shooting broke out
Martin Duque Anguiano, 14
Martin’s brother Miguel wrote on a GoFundMe page for his brother’s funeral expenses: ‘He was a very funny kid, outgoing, and sometimes really quiet’
Nicholas Dworet, 17
Nicholas was a senior when he was killed. He had already been recruited onto the swim team at the University of Indianapolis
Aaron Feis, 37
Feis was shot and killed after throwing himself in front of students to protect them from bullets. He died from his gunshot wounds after being rushed to the hospital and undergoing emergency surgery
Jamie Guttenberg, 14
Jamie’s father confirmed her death in a Facebook post that read: ‘My heart is broken. Yesterday, Jennifer Bloom Guttenberg and I lost our baby girl to a violent shooting at her school…I write this trying to figure out how my family gets through this’
Chris Hixon, 49
Hixon was the school’s athletic director and his wife told CNN that he was ‘an awesome husband, father and American’. Hixon was a Naval reservist and did a tour in Iraq in 2007
Luke Hoyer, 15
Luke’s cousin told the local news station that he was ‘an amazing individual. Always happy, always smiling. His smile was contagious, and so was his laugh’
Cara Loughran, 14
Cara was an Irish dancer at a local dance studio, which posted on Facebook: ‘Cara was a beautiful soul and always had a smile on her face’
Gina Montalto, 14
Gina was a member of the school’s marching band as a winter guard. Her instructor said she ‘was the sweetest soul ever’
Joaquin Oliver, 17
Joaquin was born in Venezuela and moved to the US when he was three. He became a natural citizen one year before the shooting
Alaina Petty, 14
Alaina was part of the school’s junior ROTC program – a leadership program taught by Army veterans
Meadow Pollack, 18
Meadow was a senior and had been accepted to Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, at the time of her death
Helena Ramsay, 17
Helena was planning to attend college in 2019. Her cousin wrote in a tribute: ‘We miss you dearly and are so incredibly sorry that your life was cut short’
Alex Schachter, 14
Alex was a member of the high school’s marching band and orchestra where he played baritone and trombone. After his death his family set up a GoFundMe page to act as a scholarship fund in his memory
Carmen Schentrup, 16
Carmen was a National Merit Scholar semifinalist, which only 10 students had qualified for in 2018
Peter Wang, 15
Peter was a member of the school’s junior ROTC program and was reportedly looking forward to the Chinese New Year, which was two days after the massacre
(L-R) Carmen Schentrup, 16; Peter Wang, 15