FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) – A grieving father erupted in rage Tuesday as he told jurors about his daughter in Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz killed along with 16 others Four years ago, his voice rose as he recounted her “infectious laugh, which I can now only watch on TikTok videos.
Dr. Ilan Alhadeff’s emotional testimony about his 14-year-old daughter Alyssa marked a second day of tears as one family after another took the witness stand and gave heartbreaking statements about their loved ones who died at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. February 14
He and his wife, Lori, described Alyssa’s role as captain of her soccer team, the friend others always turned to for advice or a cry, and her plans to become a corporate lawyer. He wept as he recounted how he would not dance with his daughter at her wedding or see the children she would have had.
“My firstborn daughter, daddy’s girl, was taken from me! – shouted the internal medicine doctor Alhadeff. “I can watch my friends, neighbors, colleagues spend time enjoying their daughters, enjoying all the normal milestones, enjoying the normal joys, and I can only watch videos or go to the cemetery to see my daughter.”
He said one of Alyssa’s two younger brothers was too young to understand her death when it happened, but now “asks me to go see his sister at the cemetery every now and then.”
“This is not normal!” he said angrily.
Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder in October; the trial is only to determine whether he is sentenced to death or life without parole. He showed no emotion during two days of family statements, even as several of his attorneys wiped away tears and District Judge Elizabeth Scherer’s voice broke as she gave instructions. He usually looks straight ahead or looks down at the table he is sitting on.
As one family testifies, others are crying in the gallery while waiting for their turn. Once completed, they remain to provide support. They exchange tissue packs, rub shoulders, and hug each other during breaks. Some jurors wipe away tears, but most sit stoically.
Statements were read to some families. 14-year-old Martin Duque’s mother wrote that when he was born in Mexico, he wanted to be a US Navy SEAL. The wife of assistant football coach Aaron Feis wrote that he was a loving father to their young daughter and a mentor to many young people.
The mother of 16-year-old Carmen Schentrup wrote that she was a straight-A student whose letter announcing she was a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist was received the day after her death. She wanted to be a doctor who studied amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Shara Kaplan tearfully told jurors of her two sons’ grief that they were not there to protect their little sister, 18-year-old Meadow Pollack.
Luke Hoyer’s mother, Gina, said the 15-year-old was her “miracle baby,” her “Lukey Bear.” She said he called out that Valentine’s Day morning to thank her for the card and Skittles she left in his bathroom. The gifts stayed there for a year. His father, Tom, said he never saw his son that morning, but shouted “Good day” as he rushed to work. “It’s an exchange you think you’ll have tomorrow,” he said.
Fred Guttenberg, who has become a national advocate for stricter gun laws, said he regrets that the last words he said to his 14-year-old daughter Jaime were not “I love you” but “You have to go, you are.” gonna be late,” he pushed her and her older brother out the door that morning. He said his son is angry at him for telling him to run when he called in a panic to say there was a gunman at school, instead of letting him find his sister, even though it would have made no difference.
His wife, Jennifer Guttenberg, said that while her daughter was known for her competitive dancing, she volunteered at the Humane Society and had children with special needs. She planned to be a pediatric physical therapist.
Annika Dworet, her husband Mitch sat somberly beside her and told the jury about their son, Nick, who was 17 when he died. A star swimmer, he received a scholarship to the University of Indianapolis and trained in anticipation of the 2020. to compete in the Olympics for his mother’s native Sweden. His younger brother Alex was injured in the shooting.
“He always included everyone. On his last night with us, he spent time talking to the younger kids on the swim team, giving them advice,” she said.
But now, she said, “our hearts will be broken forever.”
“We will always live with excruciating pain. There is an empty bedroom in our house. There is an empty chair at our dining table. Alex will never have a brother to talk to or spend time with. They will never drive with very loud music playing again. We didn’t see anyone out of high school or college. We will never see him marry.
“We will always hesitate to answer the question, ‘How many children do you have?’