“Soon she will become a professional soccer player. Get a law degree and maybe become one of the most successful business negotiation lawyers in the world,” Ilan Alhadeff said in a Broward County courtroom Tuesday. the death penalty trial of his daughter’s murderer.
“She was going to get married and I was going to do my father-daughter dance,” he said, his voice breaking. “She would have had a beautiful family, four children, lived in a beautiful house – the beach house next door.
“All those plans ended up killing Alice,” he said.
The families of the 17 people killed in the Parkland school shooting continued to take the stand Tuesday, offering victim impact statements illustrating the toll of the killings as a jury decides whether to sentence the shooter to death.
To recommend a death sentence, the jury must be unanimous. If they do, the judge could follow the recommendation or sentence Cruz to life in prison.
To reach their decision, jurors will hear arguments from prosecutors and defense attorneys on aggravating circumstances and mitigating circumstances — reasons why Cruz should or should not be executed. Victim impact statements add another layer, giving victims’ families and friends their day in court, although the judge told the jury the statements should not be considered aggravating factors.
“We were a family of five who were always trying to fit into a world made for even numbers,” said Tom Hoyer, whose 15-year-old son Luke, the youngest of three, was killed. “Tables for two, four, six at a restaurant. Packages of two, four, six tickets to events. That kind of thing.”
But the Hoyers are no longer a family of five, and “the world will never feel right again, now that we’re a family of four,” Hoyer said.
“When Luke died, something went away in me,” he said. “And I will never, ever get over that feeling.”
“I’ll Never Get Over It”
The testimony of the parents of the 14 slain students focused not only on who their children were, but also on what they would never become — an endless catalog of things left undone and unsaid.
Nicholas Dworet, a high school swim team captain, had just received a scholarship to the University of Indianapolis when he was killed, his mother, Annika Dworet, testified Tuesday. He wanted to study finance and move to Boston with his girlfriend.
“Nick had big goals — bigger than most of us dare to dream,” she said. He stuck a note next to his bed that read: “I want to become an Olympian for Sweden and go to Tokyo 2020 to compete for my country. I will give everything I have in my body and mind to achieve my goals. determined”.
“Now,” said Annika Dworet, “we will never know if he would have achieved his goal of going to the Olympics.”
Jennifer Guttenberg, 14-year-old Jaime’s mother, told the court that watching her daughter’s friends and classmates grow up to achieve things Jaime never will is “extremely difficult.”
Family gatherings and holidays are also difficult when there’s one less seat at the table and Jaime isn’t there to “keep everyone happy and laughing.”
“There’s togetherness, but no celebrations,” Guttenberg said. “There’s a deafening silence between everyone because they don’t want to bring up Jaime’s name to cause pain, but they don’t want to forget her.
“I’ll never get over it. I’ll never get over it,” she said Monday. “My life will never be the same.”
“Our lives have been destroyed”
Cruz did not respond to any victim impact statements Monday, although one of his defense attorneys broke down in tears, as did at least two jurors.
“It’s been four years and four months since he was taken from us, his friends and family,” Patricia Oliver said of her son, who was 17 when he was killed. “We miss him more than words can say and we love him so much,” she said, adding: “Our lives have been shattered and changed forever.”
Joaquin’s sister, Andrea Ghersi, said her 6-foot brother was “energetic, vibrant, loud, confident, strong, empathetic, understanding, smart, passionate, outgoing, playful, loving, competitive, rebellious, funny, loyal and always.” spoke up when he felt something was wrong.”
Victoria Gonzalez also took the stand on Tuesday. Gonzalez said in court that she became Joaquin’s girlfriend the day of the shooting, but they had already called each other “always soulmates” and she described him as “magical love personified.” His name, she said, “is engraved in the depths of my soul.”
Kelly Petty, mother of victim Alaina Petty, described the late 14-year-old as a “very loving person.”
“She loved her friends, she loved her family and most of all she loved God,” Kelly Petty said of her daughter. “It breaks my heart that I won’t be able to watch her grow into the wonderful young woman she has become.”
Alain’s sister Meghan echoed those sentiments, telling the court: “Would have loved to have seen her grow up. She would have been a blessing to the world.”
CNN’s Carlos Suarez and Sara Weisfeldt contributed to this report.