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Parkland school shooter sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole

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Posted at 4:47 PM, Nov 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-02 16:47:53-04

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (WPTV) — Nikolas Cruz was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for murdering 17 people at a Parkland, Florida high school in 2018. All sentences will run consecutively, the judge said.

Cruz avoided the death penalty after a jury last month did not unanimously agree on the punishment. He had pleaded guilty to the Valentine's Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year.

During Wednesday’s hearing, loved ones of the victims made statements about the horrific incident and court proceedings.

"It was extremely painful to hear all the horrific details of this massacre at our children's high school," Annika Dworet, who with her husband, Mitch, attended every day of Cruz's trial. "Just to be in the same room as this monster who killed our son Nicholas and attempted to murder our son Alex. It's unbearable."

She continued, "One of the most disgusting and unprofessional actions that occurred in this courtroom was the defense team holding, touching and giggling with this cold-blooded murderer."

Cruz, shackled and wearing a red jail jumpsuit, stared at the speakers but showed little emotion, as he did the day before.

When Jennifer Guttenberg, mother of victim Jaime Guttenberg, got up to speak, she started by admonishing Cruz for hiding his face and expressions behind a blue mask, prompting Cruz to remove the face covering.

Those speaking to Cruz followed the same theme as family members who spoke Tuesday.

"You deserve the opportunity to rot away," David Alhadeff, the uncle of Alyssa Alhadeff, told Cruz via Zoom from his classroom in Maryland. "You deserve the opportunity to absorb the look of terror on your face once you leave this courtroom. You deserve the opportunity of knowing that justice will prevail at some point, causing you great anguish, minute by minute, day by day."

Cruz, a former student and then 19, wore a school shirt so that he could blend in with fleeing students as he escaped. He was arrested an hour later.

Thomas Hixon's father, athletic director Chris Hixon, was shot when he burst through a door and ran at Cruz, trying to stop him. The Navy veteran fell wounded on the floor and tried to take cover in an alcove, but Cruz walked over and shot him again.

Thomas Hixon, a Marine veteran, recalled Tuesday that Cruz claimed remorse a year ago when he pleaded guilty to the murders, setting the stage for the penalty trial.

"Where was your remorse when you saw my father injured and bleeding on the floor and decided to shoot him for a third time?" Hixon told Cruz. "Your defense preyed on the idea of your humanity, but you had none for those you encountered on Feb. 14."

This story was originally reported on wptv.com.