Parkland school shooter’s defense: Convicted felon says Cruz is brother from ‘polluted womb’

Danielle Woodard, 35, testifies on Monday in Broward County court. (Copyright 2022 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Parkland school shooter’s defense team called his biological maternal half-sister to the stand on Monday at Broward County court in Fort Lauderdale.

Danielle Woodard, 35, was in handcuffs. A Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy stood behind the convicted felon who is in the custody of the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department.

She said she has only seen Cruz twice in her life: When he was born and in court on Monday. Assistant Public Defender Tamara Curtis focused on her mother, Brenda Woodard.

“She just introduced me to a life that no child should ever be introduced to,” Danielle Woodard said later adding she was a “horrible” mother and died last year.

Danielle Woodard, a convicted felon, said she has been arrested about 16 times. She testified in court on Monday during her half brother Nikolas Cruz's death penalty trial. (Copyright 2022 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.)

Curtis asked Danielle Woodard to talk about what it was like to live with her in the summer of 1998. She said she had just finished fifth grade when she told her she was pregnant as the result of rape. She said Cruz was “developing” in her “polluted womb.”

Danielle Woodard said her mother was an alcoholic who liked to drink “grape Cisco,” a drug addict who used “crack cocaine” regularly and who smoked “like a chimney.” She also described a day when “Brenda” was enraged and tore apart the kitchen counters and the refrigerator.

“Brenda came in looking for money. Me and my grandma were at the efficiency and she demanded my grandmother to give her money and my grandmother didn’t have money to give her, so she made my grandmother strip naked and my grandmother stripped naked, but my grandmother kept her shoes in. That’s where the money was hidden. That was the money for the rent.”

Danielle Woodard said their mother, who always wore Dockers shorts with baggy T-shirts, rented out her efficiency to homeless addicts who needed a private place to smoke crack. She also forced her to help her cheat on drug tests by peeing in a pill container.

Danielle Woodard said her mother gave her a picture of her two brothers when she was 16 years old. The defense displayed this photograph for jurors to see on Monday in Broward County court. (Copyright 2022 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.)

Danielle Woodard said she was 11 years old when she held Cruz as a newborn baby and asked if they “could keep him” and never saw him again. She said she went into foster care when she was 12 years old. She said she saw her mother again when she was 16 and that’s when she told her she had a second brother named Zachary.

Danielle Woodard’s adult criminal record goes back to when she was 19 and she was accused of carjacking. Records show she was convicted of a 2010 attempted murder charge, a 2015 cocaine possession charge, and a 2016 battery on a law enforcement officer charge.

According to the Florida Department of Corrections, she served time in prison from July 14, 2011, to Aug. 19, 2014, and again from July 2, 2018, to Aug. 22, 2019. She was awaiting trial at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center for a January 2020 robbery, carjacking, and aggravated assault.

Watch video of her 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.