Judge sentences Parkland school shooter to 34 consecutive life sentences

The Broward Sheriff's Office has to turn over Nikolas Cruz to the Florida Department of Corrections after he was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer sentenced the Parkland school shooter to 34 consecutive mandatory life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole. One for each of the 34 victims: 17 killed and 17 injured during the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Scherer also ordered Nikolas Cruz not to profit from the crimes and she listed other orders that assured that he will never have a penny to his name by allowing Broward County to garnish his funds for victims’ restitution and to pay for a list of expenses, including the cost of the public defense that kept him away from the death penalty.

The sentences for 16 of the attempted murders include a 20-year minimum mandatory prison sentence under Florida’s “10-20-Life” law, which requires a minimum sentence for certain felony convictions involving the use of a firearm. One of the attempted murder counts includes a 25-year minimum mandatory prison sentence.

“He is remanded to the custody of the Department of Corrections,” Scherer said before deputies quickly escorted Cruz out of the courtroom and his defense team walked out with him.

Scherer gave every single prosecutor a hug. The relatives of the victims remained in the courtroom. Some hugged each other. Some also hugged deputies and prosecutors. The tears for some turned into smiles. A more than four-year-long legal process was finally over.

Before the formal sentencing, Cruz answered Scherer’s questions in the affirmative: He said he was under psychiatric treatment and was alert during the proceedings. Scherer then turned to the families of the victims and said they were a “wonderful, strong community” and Marjory Stoneman Douglas was a “thriving” school.

“I know that you are going to be okay because you have each other,” Scherer said.

The Broward Sheriff's Office has to turn over Nikolas Cruz to the Florida Department of Corrections after he was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale.

Cruz’s guilty plea last year prompted a three-month penalty phase that resulted in a divided jury and a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole on Oct. 13. The jury’s majority wanted Cruz to be sentenced to the death penalty, but in 2016 Florida law started to require unanimous agreement.

Scherer didn’t have a choice after three of the 12 jurors sided with Cruz’s defense that his late biological mother’s alcohol abuse while pregnant had damaged his brain and that his mental health had declined through no fault of his own. Scherer said Cruz has 30 days to file an appeal.

Related story: Fred Guttenberg demands public defender’s resignation over remarks during hearing

Second day of victim impact statements without restrictions

Scherer allowed the grieving relatives to speak on Tuesday and Wednesday directly to an emotionless Cruz. Some also spoke to his public defense team — despite Public Defender Gordon Weekes’s concerns and opposition.

Manuel Oliver, who lost his 17-year-old son Joaquin Oliver, was the last speaker of the two-day hearing in Fort Lauderdale. Oliver said he decided to remain outside of the courtroom because he didn’t want a reaction to cause a mistrial.

“You will suffer and you will go through pain, a lot of pain,” Oliver told Cruz, also addressing the defense by saying that it was “unreal” and “crazy” that for a minute the hearing focused on their children.

Joaquin’s girlfriend Victoria Gonzalez blamed Cruz for her mistrust of people. She said she had “rooted” for him before the shooting after sensing that something wasn’t right with him.

“I am sorry that you never saw the love that the world is capable of giving,” Gonzalez told Cruz.

Annika Dworet read the first names of the 17 murder victims: Nicholas, Peter, Carmen, Alex, Helena, Meadow, Alaina, Joaquin, Gina, Cara, Luke, Chris, Jaime, Aaron, Martin, Scott, and Alyssa.

“After today no one will speak of this killer, he will be forgotten,” said Annika Dworet, the grieving mother of 17-year-old victim Nicholas Dworet.

Lori Alhadeff, a Broward County School Board member, said Feb. 14, 208 was the most painful day of her life because her 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was “the heartbeat” of her family.

“May your life be horrific, painful and show no mercy,” Lori Alhadeff told Cruz.

Alyssa’s father, Dr. Ilan Alhadeff, said the judicial system failed him and his family. He also said they will be committed to continuing their advocacy work in memory of their beautiful girl.

“We will make our schools safe from animals like you,” Dr. Ilan Alhadeff told Cruz.

Alyssa’s paternal uncle David Alhadeff, a teacher in Maryland, spoke to Cruz via Zoom. He was in his classroom.

“You deserve the opportunity of knowing that justice will prevail at some point, causing you great anguish, minute by minute, day by day,” David Alhadeff said.

Samantha Fuentes, who survived her injuries, told Cruz three students killed themselves because of him. She described him as a “hateful bigot” and said, “racism is not a mental illness.”

“You will have the most unremarkable, pathetic existence,” Fuentes told Cruz.

Linda Beigel Schulman, the grieving mother of Scott Biegel, said “real justice” was for him to be shot by each of the families.

Beigel Schulman also said that knowing that he will have to worry about his safety for the rest of his life in a maximum-security prison did give her some comfort.

“Child killers are highly frowned upon and hated in prison,” Beigel Schulman said. “I welcome the day that I’m told that you’ve been tortured and taken out for your cold-blooded, premeditated, calculated, heinous murders ... you deserve no less.”

The only time Cruz reacted to something a relative said was when Jennifer Guttenberg, the mother of murder victim Jaime Taylor Guttenberg, told him that it was disrespectful to wear his face mask. Cruz quickly took it off.

Fred Guttenberg

Representative reads statement for April Schentrup

Representative reads statement for Phil Schentrup

First day of victim impact statements without restrictions

Debra Hixon

Natalie Hixon

Thomas Hixon

Ines Maria Hixon

Patricia Padauy Oliver

Meghan Petty

Max Schachter

Anne Ramsay

Anthony Montalto III

Anthony Montalto II

Theresa Robinovitz

David Robinovitz

Bree and Eric Wikander

Ellyn Mayor

Stacey Lippel

Representative reads statement

Rebecca Jarquin

Interactive graphic

AFTERNOON REPORTS

Watch the 5 p.m. report

Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer sentenced Nikolas Cruz, 24, to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

About the Authors:

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.

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."