It’s an eerie pile of messages to a killer.
Postmarked from all over the United States and Europe, they are from women, girls and grown men. Some are handwritten, others are typed. They are written on college-ruled notebook paper and in fancy greeting cards with cartoons. Some are stuffed with sexually suggestive photos of women and teens in lingerie.
There’s even a handwritten note from a Girl Scout troop in New Jersey, signed by more than a dozen girls. “May God Forgive,” they wrote.
All the pieces of mail appear to share one theme: They are sympathetic toward the person to whom they are addressed: Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The Broward County Public Defender’s office, which represents Cruz, says between 100 and 200 pieces of mail have arrived at the county jail where Cruz is being held.
Longtime Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein told CNN he’s never seen a defendant get so many letters, which began arriving shortly after Cruz’s February 14 arrest. “Not even close,” he said.
CNN was permitted to view a small sampling of Cruz’s mail – photocopies of letters provided to the public defender’s office by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. Of those, there wasn’t one letter that criticized the confessed killer. Multiple people, in fact, offered to send Cruz money.
Why? Some people may be sympathetic to how Cruz has been portrayed – as a person with a lot of difficulties – said Dr. Robi Ludwig, a psychotherapist and commentator.
“There are some people who are more codependent in terms of mindset that think, ‘Oh, this poor soul. I can fix him. I can be important in his life,’” she said.
Another possibility is that those writing to Cruz may be desensitized to violence through their own lives, Ludwig said.
“They’re attracted to the danger. They like somebody who is dangerous. They grew up in violence. They’re desensitized to it and, in some cases, it’s vicariously thrilling.”
These letters are part of Cruz’s file, but he may not know most of them exist. Cruz doesn’t have access to the media, so unless his attorneys or family tell him, he wouldn’t know about them. Finkelstein said he has only shared the contents of the religious letters with Cruz.
Cruz cannot receive mail while he is on suicide watch, Finkelstein said. The public defender said he didn’t know whether Cruz will receive his mail if he gets off suicide watch.
Finkelstein said he allowed the viewing of the letters to show the continued “awfulness” of the case. He has been pushing for a plea deal since the shooting – where his client pleads guilty in exchange for 34 consecutive life sentences. It would spare families of the victims from the trauma of a long legal battle, he argues.
Here’s a sampling of the cards and letters sent to Cruz. CNN was not permitted to publish images of them.
Letter from Germany
Description: Letter from a 20-year-old university student in Germany who says she wants to be Cruz’s friend.
Message: “I feel sorry for you, as the media represents you without acknowledging what you’ve been through in the past years.”
“Sometimes we don’t have control over what happens to us, but we always have absolute control over how we react to it.”
“If you are looking for someone to write with, no matter what topic, I’m here.”
Card with a picture of a monkey
Description: Card with a cartoon monkey hanging from a tree that says, “Hang in there.”
Message in card: “I know you could use a good friend right now. Hang in there. Keep your head up!”
Message on envelope: “No one else is dealing with your demons, meaning maybe defeating them could be the beginning of your meaning, friend.” (Written in pink or purple ink with a heart. The words are lyrics to a song by the group twenty one pilots.)
Letter from Florida
Description: Letter from a 19-year-old Florida woman who sent two photos of herself. The letter is on school-ruled paper in beautiful handwriting.
Message: The woman wants to know how Cruz is “holding up” and says it’s important that he have someone to talk to. She asks if they can be “writing buddies” and says she sent pictures so he has a visual image of who is writing to him.
“P.S. Let me know how you are doing,” she writes. “Please.” (smiley face).
Card from New York
Description: Card with a picture of a German Shepherd, adorned with blue and red stars.
Message: “Nikolas I care about you please talk and don’t hurt yourself.”
Letter from England
Description: Letter from a British woman, 21.
Message: The woman says she feels “sorry” for Cruz and adds that if he wants to take his mind off of things they can be “pen pals.”
Suggestive photos from young women
Description: Ten photographs, some of them selfies, of various young women and teens in suggestive poses. One woman is wearing ripped blue jeans and a shirt with a neckline that goes almost to her belly button. Another includes closeups of her face, with lots of makeup and red lipstick. In some photos her face is framed by pink hearts or embellished with a cat nose and whiskers, along with the greeting, “hello kitty.”
Suggestive photos from older women
Description: One woman is in a lacy bra and panties. Another is in her bra and sucking on a popsicle. A third is wearing a workout bra and tight workout shorts and is bending over to show her behind.
Letter from California
Messages: “Just wanted to write to you again. Not sure you are receiving your letters yet or not, but I wanted you to know that you and your brother are still on my mind.”
“I will be happy to send money for your commissary to get stamps and such.”
Handwritten letter from England
Messages: “I have freckles like yours.”
“I think your beautiful.” “Even if you don’t write back feel free to ask me anything.”
The writer signs off, “Love, (name).”
“Oh and I forgot to mention that I’m a girl lol.”
Letter from Girl Scout troop
Description: It’s signed by hand by at least 15 girls. The handwriting appears to be from girls of various ages.
Message: “Dear Nikolas, Know that you are prayed for. We are a Girl Scout Troop. May you realize the wrong you did. We will lift you up and all those that you changed their lives on that day. May God Forgive.”
Card with a picture of a bunny
Description: A greeting card, handwritten in green ink, showing a bunny looking out at the ocean with binoculars.
Message: “Know you are loved. If you are allowed to communicate, please feel free to do so.”