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‘Justice was not served today’: Parkland victims’ families react to Cruz’s sentence

What were the reactions of families whose relatives were murdered in the Parkland shooting?

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Mitch and Annika Dworet react as they hear that their son’s murderer will not receive the death penalty at the Broward County Courthouse.

Mitch and Annika Dworet react as they hear that their son’s murderer will not receive the death penalty as the verdicts are announced in the trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022. The Dworet’s son, Nicholas, was killed, and their other son, Alexander, was injured in the 2018 shootings.

Amy Beth Bennett, South Florida Sun Sentinel via Associated Press

Nikolas Cruz, who pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, was sentenced on Thursday to life in prison without parole. In Florida, it is required for a jury to unanimously vote on the death sentence in order for a person to receive that sentence.

Several of the victims’ families attended the trial and had been vocal about the death penalty leading up to the trial.

Ahead of the sentencing, CNN spoke with Robert Schentrup, brother of Carmen Schentrup, who was murdered in the Parkland shooting. Robert Schentrup opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, including in the case of Cruz. Schentrup’s parents disagree with him, according to CNN, as do several other families of Parkland victims.

“If police did their job that day the shooter would’ve been killed at MSD. Since they didn’t do what was needed then, let the court get it right this time,” Carmen Schentrup’s mother, April Schentrup, wrote. “Carmen’s murderer deserves the death penalty.”

Several families expressed disappointment at the sentencing. Linda Schulman, the mother of victim Scott Beigel, who was a geography teacher, was quoted in The New York Times saying, “If this was not the most perfect death penalty case, then why do we have the death penalty at all?” CNN reported that Beigel’s father added, “Justice was not served today.”

14-year-old Jaime Guttenberg was killed during the shooting. Her father, Fred Guttenberg, told The New York Times, “This jury failed our families today. Seventeen families did not receive justice.”

Debra Hixon, widow of victim Christopher Hixon, said at a press conference, “What it says to me, what is says to my family, what it says to the other families is that his life meant more than the 17 that were murdered … and the thousands of people in that school and that community that are terrorized and traumatized every single day.”

Ilan Alhadeff, father of Alyssa who was murdered in the shooting, told ABC News reporters, “I pray that animal suffers every day of his life in jail. And that he has a short life.” Lori Alhadeff, mother of Alyssa, added, “What is the death penalty for if not for the killing of 17 people?”

The Associated Press reported that Tony Montalto, father of Gina Montalto, said he did not think the mitigating factors should have prevented Cruz from receiving the death sentence.

“Our justice system should have been used to punish this shooter to the fullest extent of the law,” Montalto said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis agreed with the families who expressed disappointment, according to The Associated Press. In a case like this one, “where you’re massacring those students with premeditation in utter disregard for basic humanity ... I just don’t think anything else is appropriate except a capital sentence,” DeSantis said.

Cruz’s sentence will be formalized by Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer.