By Kevin Deutsch
Parents of victims killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School vented their frustration Thursday following a jury’s decision to show mercy to killer Nikolas Cruz.
At least one of the 12 Broward County jurors tasked with deciding whether Cruz should spend life in prison without parole, or be sentenced to death, found there were mitigating factors in the case just one day after the start of deliberations.
“I am disgusted with our legal system; I am disgusted with those jurors,” Ilan Alhadeff, father of 14-year-old shooting victim Alyssa Alhadeff, said in public remarks following the verdict.
“I pray that animal suffers every day of his life in jail. He should have a short life.”
Lori Alhadeff, Alyssa’s mother and a Broward County School Board Member, said her family was “beyond disappointed with the outcome today.”
“This should have been the death penalty, 100 percent,” Alhadeff said. “Seventeen people were brutally murdered…I sent my daughter to school, and she was shot eight times. I am so…frustrated with this outcome. I just don’t understand this.”
Max Schachter, the father of 14-year-old shooting victim Alex Schachter, said the killer “got everything he wanted” as a result of the verdict.
“Prior to the shooting, the Parkland murderer said he wanted to kill 20 people,” Schachter said on Twitter. “He stopped after killing 17, including my sweet little boy Alex. Afterward, he didn’t want to die. He wanted to live. Today he got everything he wanted. While our loved ones are in the cemetery.”
Prior to the shooting the Parkland murderer said he wanted to kill 20 people. He stopped after killing 17 including my sweet little boy Alex. Afterwards he didn’t want to die. He wanted to live. Today he got everything he wanted. While our loved ones are in the cemetery.
— Max Schachter (@maxschachter) October 13, 2022
Tony Montalto, whose 14-year-old daughter Gina Montalto was murdered in the attack, called the jury’s decision a “gut punch.”
“Pretty unreal that nobody paid attention to the facts of this case, that nobody can remember who a victim is and what they look like,” Montalto said in remarks outside court.
“The monster that killed them gets to live another day.”
Local politicians also weighed in on the verdict.
“He should die. Even death is not enough,” Jared Moskowitz, a Broward County Commissioner and candidate for a U.S. House of Representatives seat, said of Cruz. “This is [a] travesty of Justice. Mass shooters get to live, but [their] victims don’t, f—–g unacceptable. He should be removed from ever existing. The 17 can never return, and neither should he.”
Thursday’s verdict was the culmination of the penalty phase of Cruz’s trial, which followed his pleading guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in Oct. 2021.
Cruz, 24, is scheduled to be sentenced to life in prison on Nov. 1.
The victims killed in the attack were Alhadeff; Scott Beigel, 35; Martin Duque, 14; Nicholas Dworet, 17; Aaron Feis, 37; Jaime Guttenberg, 14; Chris Hixon, 49; Luke Hoyer, 15; Cara Loughran, 14; Montalto; Joaquin Oliver, 17; Alaina Petty, 14; Meadow Pollack, 18; Helena Ramsay, 17; Schachter; Carmen Schentrup, 16; and Peter Wang, 15.
- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.