FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The heartbreak of the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was still felt in Broward County court on Monday in Fort Lauderdale.
A few hours before Nikolas Cruz fired his AR-15, he professed his love to a girl named Angie, according to text messages that Broward Sheriff’s Office Detective Ronald Faircloth read in court on Monday.
“You are scaring me and I want you to leave me alone,” Angie wrote, according to Faircloth’s record.
The jury not only learned about Angie’s rejection. They faced more ghastly details about the gunshot wounds three victims suffered and listened to the victim statements of a group of grieving mothers, siblings, a stepfather, and a girlfriend.
After forensic pathologist Dr. Terrill Tops said Joaquin Oliver died of a gunshot to the head — that “caused the skull to explode and the brain with it” — his mother and sister read their victim statements in court.
“Our lives have been shattered and changed forever,” Patricia Oliver said through tears.
A stoic Andrea Ghersi, Joaquin’s older sister, said that even though her brother Joaquin was 6-foot, 1-inches tall, he was still her baby brother.
“It hurts a lot, not just today but every single day,” Ghersi said.
Joaquin’s girlfriend Victoria Gonzalez said they referred to each other as soulmates. She also read a statement saying he loved to make people smile.
“Joaquin was magic personified, love personified,” Gonzalez said adding, “He was simply just happy to be human.”
Assistant State Attorney Michael J. Satz also called John V. Navarra, a retired MSD teacher to the stand. He had taught Cruz how to shoot an air rifle during the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps class.
“He was quiet and well behaved,” Navarra said.
Fourteen-year-old Alaina Petty died in her JROTC uniform after Cruz shot her. Her mother, Kelly Petty, said Alaina joined JROTC in following with her older brother’s footsteps.
“I am heartbroken that I will not be able to watch her become the amazing young woman that she was turning into,” Kelly Petty said while reading her victim statement.
Alaina’s older sister, Meghan Petty, said she feels confused and angry about her sister’s murder every day. In her victim’s statement, she said it upset her that her sister didn’t get to experience romantic love.
“I would have loved to see her grow up because I know she would have been a blessing to the world,” Meghan Petty said.
Linda Beigel told the jury about her slain son Scott Beigel, a geography teacher and cross-country coach. Cruz fatally shot him on the 1200 building’s third floor, in front of his classroom.
“I miss my son today. I will miss my son tomorrow. I will miss my son for the rest of my life,” Linda Beigel said.
AUTOPSIES AND DIGITAL EVIDENCE
Tops, of the Palm Beach Medical Examiner’s Office, also said 15-year-old Luke Hoyer was shot in the neck and 37-year-old Aaron Feis was shot in the torso twice.
The seven men and five women on the jury and the 10 alternate jurors viewed the ghastly images of their lifeless bodies on small screens in front of them.
Faircloth listed some of the data extracted from Cruz’s phone, which included morbid searches for “school shooters,” “AR-15″ and “Good songs to play while killing people.”
The patterns also showed Cruz’s obsession with Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks,” a song about a fictional troubled teenager who is plotting revenge.
“People will die,” Cruz warned in a Feb. 8, 2018 video.
There was another warning in a Feb. 11, 2018 video.
“From the wrath of my power, they will know who I am ... With the power of my AR you will all know who I am ... My love for you Angie will never go away.”
Since the penalty phase began on July 18, the prosecution team has called 63 witnesses to the stand — including the 17 who survived their injuries.
Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said the court was in recess until 10:15 a.m., on Tuesday.
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Watch the 5 p.m. report
The defense filed a motion on Wednesday morning asking the court to preclude the use of Cruz’s conviction of battery on a law enforcement officer as an aggravating factor in this case.
Cruz pleaded guilty in that case involving BSO Sgt. Raymond “Ray” Beltran, who was attacked by Cruz inside the Broward County Main Jail.
The defense team stated in their motion that “the trial court must determine whether the facts and circumstances of a prior conviction meet the required threshold for whether an act is a life-threatening crime,” and stated that Beltran’s injuries were not life-threatening.
“He basically stopped talking, he flipped me off twice, and starts attacking,” Beltran said last week, adding Cruz got a hold of his Taser gun with his right hand.
The state is seeking the death penalty. The defense is hoping Cruz’s life will be spared and he will be sentenced to life in prison.