Jury recommends Parkland school shooter be sentenced to life in prison without parole on Thursday, sparing him the death penalty. After the verdict, some parents said they were angry at the decision, with one father calling the offender an “animal”.
Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018. Last year, pleaded guilty on 17 counts of premeditated murder and an additional 17 counts of attempted murder.
Under Florida law, a unanimous vote is required to sentence a person to death. The jury’s only other option was life in prison.
Lori Alkhadev, the mother of Alisa Alkhadev, one of the students killed during the shooting, said at a news conference after the verdict was read that she was “beyond disappointed and disappointed with this outcome.”
Her husband, Dr. Ilan Alhadeff, said he was “disgusted” with the legal system and juries.
“That you can allow 17 dead and 17 others to be shot and injured and not give the death penalty? What do we have the death penalty for? What is the purpose?” Alkhadev said, adding that he believed jurors set a precedent Thursday that could affect future mass killings.
“I pray that the animal suffers every day of its life in prison,” he said. “It should have a short life.”
When asked by a reporter what he would ask the jurors, Alhadeff said, “What were you thinking?”
“This is not about personal beliefs, it’s not about your religious values. It’s about the heinous crime that was committed,” he said. “There is no recovery. Prison is about rehabilitating someone. There is no rehabilitation.”
While asked if there was relief that he no longer had to go to court because the verdict had been handed down, Alkhadev said it didn’t matter.
“We have to go to the cemetery to see our daughter,” he said.
After the Parkland shooting, many parents of the dead, including the Alhadeffs, turned to activism. Lori became president of Make Our Schools Safe, a non-profit organization dedicated to keeping schools safe.
The couple were in the courtroom with the families of several other victims when the judge read the lengthy verdict, revealing the decision on each count. Lori’s tattoo, which reads “Live for Alyssa,” was prominently displayed on her forearm. It features a soccer ball and an infinity sign — combining Alyssa’s love of soccer with the nonprofit’s logo.
One of the main goals of “Make our Schools Safe” is to campaign for Alyssa’s Law, which has been passed in several states, including New Jersey, where the family is from, and Florida. The law pushes for the installation of panic alarms so teachers and students can immediately contact law enforcement in the event of an emergency.
Max Schachter, the father of Alex Schachter, who was also killed, he tweeted that the shooter “got everything he wanted” with the jury’s decision.
“Before the shooting, the Parkland killer said he wanted to kill 20 people. He stopped after killing 17, including my sweet little boy Alex,” she wrote. “Then he didn’t want to die. He wanted to live. Today he got everything he wanted. As long as our loved ones are in the cemetery.”