Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP) – Chaos reigns in the house where the Florida school shooter Nicolas Cruz grew up, testimony in his ongoing criminal trial has shown.
He and his half-brother Zachary tormented his adoptive, widowed mother, Linda. By the time Cruise arrived in middle school in the early 2010s, the pair took their fists and baseball bats to the walls, leaving holes in the gaps. Witnesses said they destroyed the television and carved it into the furniture.
Zachary may have been two years youngerBut he was bigger and stronger and constantly chose his brother – a social worker remembered Zachary eating dinner while climbing over a counter and stepping into Nicholas’ cereal.
Linda Cruz called on sheriff’s duties at the family’s 4,500-square-foot (420-square-meter) home at least two dozen times between 2012 and 2016 to deal with one son, the other, or both. Most of the calls were to fight, destroy his property, disrespect him, or run away.
“Nicholas was very easily turned off and I think Zachary got some pleasure from Nicolas pressing the button,” One of Cruise’s childhood psychologists, Frederick Kravitz, testified. In return, “he was very good at pressing[his mother’s]buttons.”
Nicolas Cruz, 23, convicted in October to murder 17 students and staff members At Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on February 14, 2018. His trial is only to decide whether he should be sentenced to death or life without parole. The hearing will resume on Monday after a week’s holiday.
In an effort to counter this, Assistant Public Guard Melissa McNeil and her team have made Cruise’s history the centerpiece of their case, Hopefully at least one juror will vote for life, The death verdict should be unanimous.
Defense wants to show that from Cruz Born to a hard-drinking, crack-smoking Fort Lauderdale prostitute, He never got the help he absolutely needed, even though it rapidly spiraled out of control.
And nowhere was this more evident than in the home Roger and Linda Cruz built in parkland, an upscale Fort Lauderdale suburb. They adopted Nicholas at birth in 1998 and, in 2000, Zachary, who had a different father at birth.
Linda Cruz, who turned 50 soon after adopting Nichols, was a stay-at-home mom. Roger Cruz, 61, had a successful marketing business.
Linda Cruz “wanted a baby, always wanted a baby. So once she found Nicolas, she felt her family was complete,” testified friend Trish Dawne-Westerlind. “She’s a sweet little kid. was. She would go and get him all these sailor outfits. She was just the happiest I had ever seen. ,
But by preschool, Cruz showed excessive behavior. Neighbors and teachers testified that he hit and bitten other children and did not socialize. He was worried, when he ran he fell and could not use utensils. Nichols began seeing psychiatrists and psychologists at age 3 and didn’t fully speak or potty trained until 4.
At age 5, as Cruise entered kindergarten, He saw his father had a fatal heart attack Family haunt. This left Linda Cruz alone in her mid-50s with two sons who would have challenged a much younger couple.
Unemployed, she became paranoid about spending, keeping her air conditioner’s thermostats in the 80s (25 to 30 Celsius) and unplugging unused appliances. A friend said his monthly electricity bill was $80, which is a fraction of what a large South Florida homeowner typically pays.
He locked the refrigerator so that his sons could not eat without permission and kept it so bad that neighbors gave him groceries.
Friends gave conflicting testimony as to whether Linda Cruz was really financially strapped or had money she didn’t want to spend.
In any case, he did not have the expenses of the other parents. Cruz’s mental health treatments were not fully covered by insurance. He loved online, often violent video games, but hated giving up – which is why he destroyed TVs and damaged walls. She would sometimes lock her video game lawyer in her car as punishment—and Cruise broke a window at least once to get it back.
“She was a little afraid of him,” testified neighbor Paul Gould.
Despite Cruz’s tantrums, Linda Cruz told teachers and counselors that he was gentle and loving, a mama’s boy. Friends testified that wasn’t entirely a facade – Cruz and his mother had a strong, often affectionate attachment and bestowed his support on his brother.
Still, Zachary remained popular in the neighborhood while Cruz was ostracized—and not just with kids.
Steven Schusler testified that shortly after passing, his landlord called the Cruise boys and pointed to Nicholas, then around 10.
“That’s weird, aren’t you Nicky?” Schusler remembered the woman saying this. Cruz “curls up” and “looks like a snail when you put salt on one.”
But Cruz’s behavior was often strange and sometimes violent. When he was 9 years old, a parent called the police after his child was hit on the head with a stone. When his dog died after consuming poisonous toad, he went on a killing spree against amphibians. in middle school, Their bursts disrupted classes and they ended their homework with racist slurs, swastikas, obscenities and stick figures having sex or shooting each other.
In Cruise’s early teens, Linda Cruz became so overwhelmed, a social services agency was hired to help. That’s what brought case manager Tiffany Forrest home. She said that Linda Cruz complained that Nicholas wouldn’t bathe, so Forrest tried to explain to her the importance of cleanliness. Cruz stood up, walked out and jumped dressed in the pool. After that he climbed out.
“I took a bath,” he told Forrest.
In the coming weeks, Cruise’s lawyers are expected to testify about his transfer to a school for students with emotional and behavioral problems, his time at Stoneman Douglas and calling his brother to the stand. Zachary now lives in Virginia with two beneficiaries.
His mother died less than four months before the shooting.
AP writer Frida Frisaro in Fort Lauderdale contributed to this report.