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Parkland school shooter sentenced to life in prison without parole

A judge in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Wednesday formally sentenced Nikolas Cruz to life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing 17 people in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Cruz sat silently as Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer formally handed down the life sentence. The 24-year-old will be transferred to federal prison, where he will remain until his death.

The formal sentencing came a day after family members of the victims had a chance to directly address Cruz in court, unleashing their grief and anger.

Nikolas Cruz, in orange jumpsuit, and large glasses above a surgical mask, with officers standing behind him, shows no emotion.
Nikolas Cruz sits at the defense table for his sentencing hearing at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Wednesday. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)

Many wished him a painful death and expressed hope that he would be raped or killed in prison.

“This creature has no redeemable value," Max Schachter, whose 14-year-old son Alex was killed in the massacre, said Tuesday.

Addressing Cruz, Schachter said he hopes "other prisoners you will encounter in your new life will inflict that pain upon you, hopefully 17 times over again, until you are screaming for mercy, just like your victims.”

“We hope that you, the monster who did this to our son, endure a painful existence in your remaining days,” said Eric Wikander, the father of student Ben Wikander, who has undergone seven surgeries to repair his wounds.

A long line of students is evacuated through the parking lot at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Students are evacuated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, 2018. (Sun-Sentinel via ZUMA Wire)

“You stole him from us,” said Debra Hixon, whose husband, athletic director Chris Hixon, was killed in the massacre. “And you did not receive the justice that you deserved.”

"You are a hateful bigot," Sam Fuentes, a student who survived the shooting, told Cruz in court Wednesday. "You shot me in the leg. And if you looked me in the face, like I am looking at you now, you would see the scars from the hot shrapnel that was lodged into it.

"You will not forget me," she added.

The two-day hearing capped a three-month sentencing trial that featured emotional testimony, graphic video and a tour of the crime scene at the school’s freshman building, which has been closed since the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre.

Cruz was 19 years old when he used an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle to carry out the attack at his former school. He fired 140 shots during the seven-minute assault, which he had planned for seven months. He pleaded guilty last year.

Linda Beigel Schulman, right, hugs Debbie Hixon tightly, her eyes closed.
Linda Beigel Schulman, right, whose son Scott was killed, hugs Debbie Hixon, who lost her husband, at the sentencing hearing for Nikolas Cruz on Tuesday. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool)

Last month, a 12-member jury delivered a unanimous verdict recommending that Cruz be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He had been facing the death penalty, but the jury did not reach the unanimity required under state law for that sentence to be imposed.

For each of the 17 counts, the jurors found existence of all aggravating factors — including that the murders were carried out in a “cold, calculated and premeditated” manner — but that they did not outweigh mitigating circumstances established by the defense.

Cruz’s lawyers had claimed his birth mother’s excessive drinking and drug use during pregnancy left him with “fetal alcohol spectrum disorder” that ultimately led him to carry out the school shooting, one of the deadliest in U.S. history.

It was the deadliest mass shooting that has ever gone to trial in the United States.

Nine other people in the U.S. who fatally shot at least 17 people died during or immediately after their attacks by suicide or police gunfire, according to the Associated Press. The suspect in the 2019 massacre of 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, is currently awaiting trial.

“The legal system should protect and impart justice, justice, justice,” Patricia Oliver, whose 17-year-old son Joaquin was killed in Parkland, said in court Tuesday. “If this, the worst mass shooting to go to trial, does not deserve the death penalty, what does?"