The Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz was sentenced to life in prison without parole Wednesday.
Cruz, shackled and in a red jail jumpsuit, showed no emotion as Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer sentenced him to 17 consecutive life terms for the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Additionally, Scherer imposed a sentence of life in prison with a minimum of 20 years to serve on 14 of the 17 counts for the attempted murders of those he wounded, and life without the possibility of parole for the remaining three counts of attempted murder. All counts are to run consecutively, the judge ruled.
Scherer had no choice but to impose life sentences after the jury in Cruz’s penalty trial could not unanimously agree that he deserved the death penalty. The jury’s refusal to unanimously recommend the death penalty, disappointed and angered many people among the families of the 17 people he killed.
The 14 slain students were: Alyssa Alhadeff, 14; Martin Duque Anguiano, 14; Nicholas Dworet, 17; Jaime Guttenberg, 14; Luke Hoyer, 15; Cara Loughran, 14; Gina Montalto, 14; Joaquin Oliver, 17; Alaina Petty, 14; Meadow Pollack, 18; Helena Ramsay, 17; Alex Schachter, 14; Carmen Schentrup, 16; and Peter Wang, 15.
Geography teacher Scott Beigel, 35; wrestling coach Chris Hixon, 49; and assistant football coach Aaron Feis, 37, also were killed – each while running toward danger or trying to help students to safety.
Tony Montalto, the father of a 14-year-old victim, called the jury’s recommendation a “gut punch” for the victims’ families, lamenting that “the monster that killed them gets to live to see another day.”
“This shooter did not deserve compassion,” said Montalto, after the jury recommended Cruz be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. “Did he show the compassion to Gina when he put the weapon against her chest and chose to pull that trigger, or any of the other three times that he shot her? Was that compassionate?”
The judge spoke to the loved ones of the victims as well as the survivors of the school shooting.
She told them that they were gracious, strong and patient during the court hearing – and that she didn’t know if she could have been the same way had the tables been reversed.
“If I could take your pain away or carry your pain for you just for five minutes so you could breathe…I would. Because I can’t even imagine what you go through each day,” Scherer said.
Because Cruz, now 24, pleaded guilty last October to all 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder, the trial phase was skipped and the court went directly to the sentencing phase.
Prosecutors had asked the jury to sentence the gunman to death, arguing Cruz’s decision to carry out the shooting was not only especially heinous or cruel, but premeditated and calculated and not, as the defense contended, related to any neurological or intellectual deficits.
Of the 12 jurors, three voted against the death penalty, said jury foreman Benjamin Thomas.