PARKLAND, Fla. – Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School gunman Nikolas Cruz grew up with his adoptive family in upscale Parkland while his biological mother lived only miles away in various locations in Broward County, repeatedly getting trouble with the law, public records show.
Brenda Woodard, Cruz's biological mother, now 62 and living in Hallandale Beach, has a lengthy criminal history that includes convictions for battery, grand theft and drug possession that date back to 1988 -- 10 years before Cruz was born.
In the three decades of legal records, many of Woodard's convictions are for minor crimes or driving or vehicle violations, but she has also been accused of many violent crimes including beating someone with a tire iron. Court records show that Woodard has not been charged with any additional crimes since 2011.
Lynda and Roger Cruz adopted Nikolas from Woodard shortly after his birth in 1998, using a private attorney. The identity of Nikolas' father was not disclosed at the time of the adoption, family friends told the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
A year later when Woodard became pregnant again, this time with a different father, Lynda and Roger adopted that child, Zachary.
Family friends said Lynda Cruz doted on the boys, and neither Roger nor Lynda had legal troubles.
Roger Cruz died when the boys were young while Lynda passed away in November of 2017, two months before the shooting.
Jail records show that Woodard has not attempted to contact Nikolas since the shooting.
Nikolas and Zachary have a half-sister, 31-year-old Daniella Woodard. Court records show Daniella, who lived in Miami, also has a significant criminal history, including convictions for battery, resisting arrest and credit card fraud.
She is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence on several charges including the second-degree attempted murder of a police officer.
Cruz's family background could become a factor his upcoming murder trial. Cruz confessed to killing 17 people and wounding more than dozen others in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but he entered a plea of not guilty.
With the prosecution seeking the death penalty, defense attorneys are expected to argue for a lesser sentence because of his history of mental health problems. Their arguments could be bolstered by Cruz's biological family history.
In his confession to police, Cruz told the detective that he heard voices that urged him "burn, kill and destroy."