Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz to be formally sentenced

By Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 3:16 p.m. ET, November 1, 2022
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2:15 p.m. ET, November 1, 2022

Parkland family statements expected to resume Wednesday afternoon

The court is now in a recess for the rest of the day, with statements from the families of those killed in the 2018 massacre expected to continue Wednesday starting at 1:30 p.m. ET.

After the court's lunch break, the judge heard statements from the Tony Montalto and Anthony Montalto III — the father and younger brother of Parkland shooting victim, Gina Montalto.

A reminder: This is all part of the Parkland school shooter's official sentencing. It comes at the conclusion of a months-long trial where the jury recommended he be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

2:13 p.m. ET, November 1, 2022

Brother of Parkland shooting victim says the "worst part" is he did not say goodbye to his sister


Anthony Montalto, III, the younger brother of Parkland school shooting victim Gina Montalto, said he was in his middle school classroom on the day of the attack.

He said that after the students were released from school, he rode his bike home and waited with his uncle for his parents to return. At 10 p.m. that night, he said his parents arrived back at the house with tears in their eyes and told him that his sister was dead.

He said the "worst part" was that morning, "I did not say goodbye to her."

Anthony Montalto said that Gina was his only sister. He said that "every day I walk by her room and see that it's empty."

He said to "go from a younger brother to an only child" in less than 6 hours was a "dramatic change" for him.

"Every day I wish I had said goodbye like I should have," he said.

Gina's brother said in court that the "murdering bastard" Nikolas Cruz should have been made an example and sentenced to death. He said that the jury "failed" by sparing him the death penalty.

"I hope the jurors that allowed him to live will regret their decision," he said.

After he was finished speaking, his father, Tony Montalto spoke. He said that "this case" is "why we have the death penalty." He said that the jury "ignored facts" and instead "went with emotion and made a "selfish, misguided" decision.

In his statement, Tony Montalto called for the Florida state legislature to reconsider the law that requires a unanimous jury decision to sentence a defendant to death.

12:21 p.m. ET, November 1, 2022

Victim's mother recounts "listening to the screams and the howling" of families after shooting


Anne Marie Ramsay, whose daughter, Helena Ramsay, was killed during the Parkland shooting, called Cruz "pure evil" and said she wished he would have been sentenced to death.

She said that her daughter was a "lovely girl" who was an "angel to me."

On the day she was killed, Ramsay said Helena told her "bye mommy, love you, and she skipped off." Later that day, Helena sent Ramsay the last text she received from her daughter, a "smiley face with the heart" emoji. Ramsay said the day of the shooting, Valentine's Day 2018, she had sent a "huge, soft fondant cookie with hearts" with her daughter in her bag and that the text was "her love thrown back to me."

After the shooting, Ramsay said their family was told her daughter was injured and they spent "fruitless" hours searching area hospitals. They were eventually sent to a Marriott hotel with other families to wait to learn more information about their loved ones.

She recounted waiting at the Marriott for hours "listening to the screams and the howling of all the other families." Meanwhile, Ramsay said, they found out that the shooter was in the hospital, being taken care of and "continuing" his "ploy."

"Instead of taking care of us, they were taking care of you," Ramsay said to Cruz, adding she'll "never forget that night."

"You kept us there," Ramsay said, addressing Cruz. She said her family was at the hotel until about 3 a.m. and they were the "last family to be looked at."

"You took away an angel that could have made a difference in society," Ramsay told Cruz.

12:44 p.m. ET, November 1, 2022

Defense raises an objection to survivors and families of victims attacking Cruz's legal team


After some survivors and families of victims of the Parkland school shooting gave statements on how the massacre impacted them and how they feel about shooter Nikolas Cruz avoiding the death penalty, Cruz's defense attorney Melisa McNeill raised an objection.

She pointed to how some of the statements heard in the court on Tuesday were attacking the defense counsel that "followed and maintained their constitutional duty" where the state provides every criminal defendant the right to legal representation.

"I did my job and every member of this team did their job, judge. And we should not personally be attacked for that, nor should our children," McNeill said, requesting the judge ask the families and survivors to refrain from attacking the defense team. "They know this isn't proper. The know that attacking defense counsel, attacking the judicial system and attacking the jurors is not permissible. It sends a message to this community that if you sit as a juror and the verdict you're not in agreement with, that you will be chastised and you will be degraded."

However, the prosecution noted that Florida law gives the victims and survivors a right to be heard.

"The defense attorneys want to take the voice of the survivors, the victims, and curtail their right," said state attorney Carolyn McCann, acknowledging that McNeill did reach out with the same request to the team. "What these victims are here to talk about today your honor is an appropriate disposition and sentence."

McNeill tried to counter this, however, Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer dismissed further discussion.

"Ms. McNeill, stop suggesting that I know that something is impermissible, and I'm allowing it to happen. You're finished, I've heard your objection, it's noted."
11:28 a.m. ET, November 1, 2022

Parkland parent blasts defense's mental illness claim


Max Schachter, father of Parkland shooting victim Alex Schachter, expressed frustration with the court for placing "restrictions" on the victim impact statement during the trial by prohibiting families from talking about the punishment that they wanted "that creature" Nikolas Cruz to receive.

"I will work to fix this injustice, for the next family," Schachter said.

He said that he recently rewatched the defense's closing argument and their "insistence that the murderer had slipped through the cracks" stuck with him. He added that he believes the defense knows "this is a lie."

Schachter derided the defense team's argument that Cruz didn't get the proper mental health treatment. He then proceed to list the services through psychiatrists, medications, and the schools that Cruz received over the years, claiming he underwent "hundreds of hours of therapy."

Schacter pointed to the defense's suggestion in their statements that the Parkland murderer "fell off the grid" when he didn't receive proper treatment.

"This individual didn't fall off the grid, he was the grid, he was getting every service that they offer ... they tried everything," he said.

Schacter said that "society tried for two decades to rehabilitate" Cruz and "tried to get him off his pathway to violence, but nobody was successful."

He called the attack "an act of pure evil" that was "well thought out, researched, premeditated" because Cruz "studied doing this for years." He added that the killer "got enjoyment out of it."

"He is a sociopath that does not deserve to live amongst us ... that creature has no redeemable value," he said.

11:21 a.m. ET, November 1, 2022

Sister of Parkland victim: Cruz avoided "the same punishment he needlessly inflicted" on Alaina Petty


In her statement Tuesday, Meghan Petty, sister of 14-year-old Parkland shooting victim Alaina Petty, called shooter Nikolas Cruz "a remorseless monster who deserves no mercy" and lamented the fact that he will not be sentenced to death.

"I feel betrayed by our judicial system," she said. "In this court, we have shown the world that if one stretches the truth, they can get away with not only murder but mass murder ... An incredibly dangerous and ridiculous precedent that has been set here will affect the lives of children across the nation."

She described reliving Alaina's murder in the courtroom as Cruz's trial proceeded.

"You cannot begin to understand the depth of reliving this pain in a very public setting surrounded by strangers. I have heard the gunshots that killed her through the speakers in here. I have listened to the medical experts describe the gunshot wounds that he inflicted on my 14-year-old baby sister," she said.

Petty said Cruz had many opportunities to stop — after his first bullet, after the first classroom or the floor — but he chose to keep firing.

"I understand that he believes his life has been hard. I don't think a single person in this courtroom today has had an easy life, yet the rest of us keep trying to do our best and he believes that he is above that charge. He chose to turn to violence and is now being protected from the same punishment he needlessly inflicted on my sister because he's too scared to receive what he exuberantly dished out," she said.

Petty shook and continued to wipe her tears as she made her statement. "He gets daily meals, a roof over his head and a bed to sleep in now. My sister's ... roof is six feet of dirt and her bed is a coffin."

10:12 a.m. ET, November 1, 2022

Parkland teacher details the trauma she lives with after surviving the shooting


Parkland teacher Stacey Lippel said she's no longer the person she was prior to the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

"I'm broken and altered, and I will never look at the world the same way again," she said at Tuesday's hearing. "I used to be eternally happy and relatively carefree, but now, I have worries and fears that seem unreasonable to most."

She said she feels a sense of horror living with the memories of the day and a sense of guilt because she wishes she could have done more.

"Because of you, I check for exits wherever I am. Because of you, I think of the worst case scenario for me and my family. Because of you, I will never feel safe again," she told the shooter, Nikolas Cruz.

Lippel said that giving her statement in court today will provide some closure for her.

10:23 a.m. ET, November 1, 2022

Parents of shooting survivor: Doctor said his injuries were similar to what a soldier would see in combat


Bree and Eric Wikander, parents of 17-year-old Parkland shooting survivor Ben Wikander, described the details of their son's ongoing recovery from injuries he sustained when he was shot by Cruz.

Bree Wikander said that her son was shot three times, in the arm, abdomen and back. She said that he spent 14 days in the hospital, has undergone seven surgeries and faces the possibility of more in the future.

She said that a doctor who served in the military and performed surgery on her son told them that he, "sustained injuries similar to what a soldier would in combat."

Wikander said that after Ben got out of the hospital and returned home he "couldn't stand long enough to brush his teeth."

"You will never understand the pain that he has gone through," she said.

Ben's father called Cruz a "monster" and told him "whatever pain you experience in prison will be a fraction of what Ben endured."

9:57 a.m. ET, November 1, 2022

Alyssa Alhadeff's grandmother to Nikolas Cruz: "I hope your every breathing moment on Earth is miserable"


Theresa Robinovitz, grandmother of 14-year-old Parkland shooting victim Alyssa Alhadeff, gave her statement on Tuesday, lamenting that shooter Nikolas Cruz will not be sentenced to death.

"If killing 17 innocent people and wounding 17 others does not warrant the death penalty, then what possibly does?" she said.

Addressing Cruz, she said, "I'm too old to see you live out your life sentence but I hope your every breathing moment on Earth is miserable, and you repent for your sins, Nikolas, and burn in hell."

Cruz, now 24, avoided the death penalty for the February 2018 massacre at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, after a jury recommended life in prison without the possibility of parole.