‘I miss him’: Tears flow during last day of Parkland victim impact statements

Victim impact statements in the Parkland school shooter’s penalty phase had many in the Broward County courtroom in tears on Thursday afternoon.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.Corey Hixon was among the last witnesses to testify on Thursday before the state’s prosecution team presented the evidence to seek the death penalty for the Parkland school shooter.

Hixon lives with Kabuki Syndrome, a developmental disability. He wore a burgundy bow tie, a crisp white shirt, and a black suit to court in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Assistant State Attorney Carolyn McCann called him to testify. Instead of having him read a victim impact statement, she asked him if there was something he wanted to tell the jury about his dad.

“I miss him,” he said before swiftly hugging his mother, Debra Hixon, the widow of Christopher Hixon.

Nikolas Cruz shot and killed the U.S. Navy veteran of Desert Shield and Desert Storm on Feb. 14, 2018, and 16 others at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s 1200 building. Corey Hixon said he and his father, the school’s athletic director, used to walk to get donuts every Saturday.

“His loss has left us broken. We have a void in our lives that will never be filled. He was an extraordinary man living an ordinary life,” said Debra Hixon, a Broward County School Board member.

Christopher Hixon, 49, also served as a security monitor. He was a trained military police officer and died while running toward Cruz. Corey’s brother Thomas Hixon read his victim impact statement using Zoom.

He said his father was his first salute when he became an officer of the U.S. Marine Corps in 2014. He said he had to prepare the dress white uniform his father wore that day for his funeral.

“Military service was a bond as father and son and I was a better Marine and leader because of what he taught me,” he said adding, “He will always be remembered for his courage, his leadership, and his humor.”

Peter Wang, 15, was a Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps cadet when Cruz killed him near the third-floor stairs. West Point posthumously admitted him to the academy. It had been his dream.

McCann also called Peter’s Chinese mother, Hui Zhang, cousin Aaron Chang, and best friend, Gabriel Ammirata, to present their victim impact statements to the jury.

“I can’t accept that he is gone. How can anyone accept the death of their children when they were taken in such a way? I can’t fathom it. Peter was the perfect son. Everyone told me I was so lucky to have him,” said Zhang’s niece Lin Chen, who read the grieving mother’s statement.

Aaron Chang said in Chinese culture cousins are more like siblings; Peter was the eldest and took care of everyone. His childhood, he said, ended on the day Peter was murdered.

“The cries I heard from Peter’s parents that night still stick with me like it was yesterday,” Aaron Chang said.

Anne Ramsay said her 17-year-old daughter Helena Ramsey played the clarinet, was a strong swimmer, and a fast sprinter. She was not interested in competitive sports. Instead, she loved the arts and she was interested in humanitarian and environmental issues.

“When the Pulse Nightclub shooting occurred in March 2016, Helena traveled to Orlando with one of her close friends to attend a benefit concert that supported the victims,” Anne Ramsay said. “As Helena’s mother, I was most impressed by Helena’s wisdom and strength of character.”

Helena was considering the possibility of returning to England to attend college when she was murdered at 17 years old on her father Vinnie Ramsay’s birthday.

“That day will never be a celebration and could never be the same for him, and now it’s filled with pain, as is every day,” Anne Ramsay said. “We both miss our brave, beautiful, and one-of-a-kind, selfless daughter. Helena is sorely missed.”

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Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Vickie L. Cartwright was in court to support Debra Hixon and her family.

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Jurors listened to testimony from the families of Peter Wang, Helena Ramsey and Christopher Hixon on Thursday in Broward County court.

Watch the 4 p.m. report

The list of the prosecution’s witnesses included the 17 injured — a teacher and 16 students — and there were also 33 witnesses who presented emotional statements about the 17 killed.

Watch the 3 p.m. report

Victim impact statements in the Parkland school shooter’s penalty phase had many in the Broward County courtroom in tears on Thursday afternoon.

About the Authors:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.