FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz formally received a sentence of life without parole Wednesday after families of his 17 slain victims spent two days berating him as evil, a coward, a monster and a subhuman.
Cruz, shackled and in a red jail jumpsuit, watched Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer as she pronounced 34 consecutive life sentences — one each for the slain and the 17 he wounded — for the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in suburban Fort Lauderdale.
The judge’s voice broke as she read the first of the sentences, but her voice gained strength and volume she moved down the list. Cruz showed no emotion as she spoke.
Scherer had no other choice; the jury in Cruz’s three-month penalty trial voted 9-3 on Oct. 13 to sentence him to death, but Florida law requires unanimity for that sentence to be imposed.
The sentencing came after two days’ worth of parents, wives, siblings and other relatives of slain victims and some of the surviving wounded walking to a lectern 20 feet to address him face to face.
The judge commended the families and wounded who testified, calling them strong, graceful and patient.
"I know you are going to be OK, because you have each other," Scherer said.
Some parents and other family members wept as she read. When she finished and Cruz was led from the courtroom, one father muttered "Good riddance."
Cruz, 24, will be taken within days to the Florida prison system’s processing center near Miami before he is assigned to a maximum-security prison. Families and the wounded spent two days verbally thrashing Cruz, wishing him a painful demise and lamenting that he could not be sentenced to death.
"Real justice would be done if every family here were given a bullet and your AR-15 and we got to pick straws, and each one of us got to shoot one at a time at you, making sure that you felt every bit of it, and your fear continued to mount until the last family member who pulled that last straw had the privilege of making sure that they killed you," said Linda Beigel Schulman, mother of slain teacher Scott Beigel. "That’s real justice for you."
Beigel Schulman said she takes some comfort in knowing that Cruz will have to worry constantly about his safety for the rest of his life.
"From what I hear, child killers are highly frowned upon and hated in prison," Beigel Schulman said to Cruz. "I welcome the day that I’m told that you’ve been tortured and taken out for your cold-blooded, premediated, calculated, heinous murders, because you deserve no less."
David Alhadeff, the uncle of Alyssa Alhadeff, told Cruz via Zoom from his classroom in Maryland that he deserves "the opportunity to rot away."
"You deserve the opportunity to absorb the look of terror on your face once you leave this courtroom," Alhadeff said. "You deserve the opportunity of knowing that justice will prevail at some point, causing you great anguish, minute by minute, day by day."
Associated Press writers Freida Frisaro and David Fischer in Miami contributed to this report.