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Parkland killer Nikolas Cruz became 'violent' from age 5 after he watched his father die on sofa

The court was told that Cruz saw his adoptive father dead on the sofa at age 5 after a heart attack after which, he started exhibiting 'violent and troubled' behavior
UPDATED AUG 30, 2022
Parkland mass shooter Nikolas Cruz also suffered from 'separation anxiety' as a child (Amy Beth Bennett-Pool/Getty Images)
Parkland mass shooter Nikolas Cruz also suffered from 'separation anxiety' as a child (Amy Beth Bennett-Pool/Getty Images)

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA: Nikolas Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty to murdering 14 students and three members of staff at a high school mass shooting in Florida in 2018. The Parkland school shooter is undergoing trial as the jury is yet to determine whether Nikolas Cruz should be sentenced to death or life imprisonment without parole.

On Monday, August, 29, during Nikolas Cruz's ongoing trial, the court heard how he was a "violent and troubled" toddler, who had "separation anxiety" from his adoptive mother. He also discovered his adopted father, Roger Cruz, dead on the sofa at age five after he suffered from a heart attack and soon after started exhibiting "violent and troubled" behavior. Finai Browd, a friend of Cruz’s adoptive mother Lynda, told the court that his adoptive father had suffered from a heart attack, with the court hearing that Cruz did not get grief counseling until four years after the 2004 death. Lynda died of pneumonia four months before the mass shooting at school.


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Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz looks up as Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill gives the defenses opening statement during the penalty phase of his trial at the Broward County Courthouse August 22, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings.
Nikolas Cruz plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 school shooting (Amy Beth Bennett-Pool/Getty Images)

Browd continued to tell the court that Lynda Cruz had dreamed of being a mother, and suffered four miscarriages before adopting Cruz in 1998. She said that her friend was "ecstatic and overjoyed" to bring Cruz home, adding that she was a "great mom". But she explained that Cruz started throwing serious tantrums by the time he was four, describing him as "not a normal kid." He also reportedly had severe separation anxiety when his mother left him to run errands outside of the house. Browd said, "He would throw things. He would lay down and scream and cry, but not like a normal kid. He would stand at the window screaming and crying and I would have to yell at him to get away from the window."

"It took a long time to calm him down. He would stand there for a few hours and do this," she added. She also claimed that the couple failed to set boundaries for him, exchanging their BMW SUV for a van because he couldn’t move the way that he liked in the vehicle.

(EDITORS NOTE: Best quality available)  In this handout provided by Broward's Sheriff's Office, suspect Nikolas Cruz poses for a mugshot photo after being arrested February 14, 2017 in Parkland, Florida. 17 people were killed by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, police arrested the suspect after a short manhunt, and have identified him as 19 year old former student Nikolas Cruz.
The court heard Nikolas Cruz was a 'violent and troubled' child
(Broward's Sheriff's Office/Getty Images)

A former teacher of Cruz’s testified saying that he was a "sad and violent" student who didn’t make friends. Lynn Rodriguez said that when she taught Cruz in 2008 and 2009, he had difficulty staying on task and was "very small" for his age. He was bullied at school, on the bus, and by his younger brother at home for his small size, according to the special education teacher.

Rodriguez told the court that Cruz had been assigned special education since kindergarten after being diagnosed with emotional and developmental problems and a speech disability. She said, "He couldn't stand up for himself, Nikolas was very quiet, aloof. He didn´t blend in well with the other students. He was anxious, very anxious."

She continued that when he would get frustrated, he would turn violent, hitting other students and tearing up their assignments and projects.

A daycare administrator and former neighbor testified that Cruz as a toddler was intellectually and physically behind other children, which caused him to isolate himself and hit and bite to get what he wanted.

Anne Fischer, who ran the daycare center Cruz attended from about age 1, said he did not progress as fast as other children and was smaller. She said while the other toddlers could ask for their water cups and use a spoon, Cruz could not.

Fischer said Lynda Cruz was loving toward Nikolas and tried to do the best she could, but was slow to admit he had problems. Since the shooting, she said she sometimes feels a bit guilty, wondering if there was something she could have done "so he could be a better person."

The defense is trying to overcome the prosecution's case, which includes surveillance video of Cruz mowing down students and staff as he stalked a three-story building for seven minutes, photos of the aftermath, and a jury's visit to the building.

A seven-man, five-woman jury will decide whether he is sentenced to death or life without parole. For Cruz to receive a death sentence, the jury must be unanimous in their decision. If the jury recommends death, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer will make the final ruling.