Parkland school shooter’s defense: Recovering addict says mother used drugs during pregnancy

Carolyn Deakins, left, said she met Nikolas Cruz’s biological mother Brenda Woodard, right, in the 1990s in Broward County. (Copyright 2022 by WPLG - All rights reserved.)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A recovering addict from Kentucky who was arrested with the Parkland school shooter’s biological mother in 1998 was the defense team’s first witness on Monday in Broward County court in Fort Lauderdale.

Carolyn Deakins said she met Nikolas Cruz’s biological mother Brenda Woodard while working as a prostitute along U.S. 1 in the early 1990s. Deakins said Woodard was gay and they would meet about once or twice a week.

“She and I hooked up and we stayed together until the day we were arrested,” Deakins said later adding, “We didn’t care much about anything other than drinking and getting high and making money in order to do that. Getting high, it was our way of life, actually the only life we knew.”

Deakins said Woodard was a fellow alcoholic and addict who preferred to drink Colt 45 and use crack cocaine. She said she saw Woodard drink, use drugs and smoke cigarettes and marijuana while she was pregnant with Cruz.

“Brenda went into the bathroom and she got sick and I thought she was drug sick ... ‘Here, take this piece of crack,’ is exactly what I said to her, and she said, ‘No, it ain’t drugs. I am pregnant,’ and I thought, ‘Oh my God,’” Deakins said.

Deakins said the attorney involved in the adoption gave Woodard money that they spent on alcohol and drugs. Deakins said they were both arrested on June 6, 1998, and went to Broward County jail for cocaine possession while Woodard was pregnant.

“I called the attorney and told him everything, the drug dealer, where it was,” Deakins said about using the number of the adoption attorney that Woodard had given her in case of an emergency.

Deakins said she was angry at Woodard, so made the call while in jail. After saying Woodard didn’t want the baby, Deakins apologized to Cruz. She later added that she had not been to South Florida since because there were too many “ghosts” and “demons.”

Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer was presiding over the case, as Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill presented her opening statement on Monday and started to call witnesses. McNeill described Brenda Woodard as mentally ill and said she stole steak from grocery stores to trade it for crack regularly.

“She did not want that baby, and that she couldn’t take care of that baby because she could barely take care of herself or her 11-year-old daughter,” McNeill said.

Cruz pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in October

Prosecutors rested their case on Aug. 4, after calling 91 witnesses in 12 days, including the 17 injured on Feb. 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The defense needs only one of the 12 jurors to oppose the death sentence. Without the jury’s unanimous agreement, Cruz will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Watch the unedited video of the full testimony

About the Author:

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.