Parkland families make moving statements during penalty phase of shooter’s trial

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(PARKLAND, Fla.) – The families of the victims of the Parkland mass shooting address the jury during the penalty phase of the trial of confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz.

The penalty phase of the trial involves determining whether Cruz will be sentenced to death for shooting dead 14 students and three staff members at his former South Florida school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, on February 14, 2018.

Joaquin Olivier

Patricia Oliver, whose 17-year-old son Joaquin Oliver was killed, called her slain son “the missing link in our family”.

“Throughout the whole pregnancy, we enjoyed every moment, including the doctor’s visits,” she said in court Monday. “August. 4, the happiest day of our family life, our beautiful and dear little boy with big eyes arrived. Joaquin.

“We miss him more than words can say,” she said.

“I have to let listeners feel how painful it is to live with this deep hole in my heart,” she continued.

Joaquin was a planner, his mother said, planning everything from his high school graduation outfit to his college projects. He should have graduated from college this year with a business degree, said Patricia Oliver.

“I keep talking to him in my head. I have to imagine the times we were meant to experience and share with him,” she said.

“All the future that awaited him has been taken away from us. Get your first professional job. Move alone. Cooking, laundry, everything he was supposed to learn from me,” she said.

Joaquin Oliver’s partner, Victoria Gonzalez, also released a statement, explaining: “I wasn’t labeled a girlfriend until the day he died… The label we gave each other was always soul mate – c was my partner.”

Overwhelmed with emotion, she said aloud, “I will,” as she began to read her statement.

“Joaquin liked to make people smile. He loved dancing in the halls of school…He loved sitting in my passenger seat and singing his heart out,” Gonzalez said.

“He worked so hard in class – all he wanted was to graduate and make his family proud. He wanted to travel and run away with me to Paris,” she said.

On Valentine’s Day 2018 – the day Joaquin was killed – they had planned a movie date.

“I remember wondering if, amidst the chaos later in the day, we would still have a quiet night together at the theater. I got lost that day,” she said, crying. “I lost my soul mate in the flesh.”

“I lost the friend who understood me best. I lost the excitement of watching him grow,” she said. “I lost innocence, I lost purity. I lost the love letters he wrote for me in that fourth period creative writing class – I never received them. They were pinned to his shirt. I miss my best friend and the way he made me feel at home.

Patricia Oliver cried as Gonzalez spoke.

Alaina Petty

Kelly Petty, whose youngest child, Alaina Petty, was killed aged 14, said Alaina was a ‘mommy’s girl’ who loved church and the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps .

“On February 14, 2018, my heart stopped beating,” Kelly Petty said.

“I’m heartbroken that I couldn’t see her grow into the amazing young woman that she was becoming,” she said in tears.

Alaina’s older sister of five years, Meghan Petty, described Alaina as smart, confident and someone who “shone with integrity”.

“I’m doing my best, but her loss makes me feel empty and truly loving someone is impossible,” Meghan Petty said.

“She never had the chance to really live. She never took her braces off. She never had her first kiss. It hurts me to know that she never went on a first date…never got to fall in love, never had heartbreak, and came out stronger and wiser. … She will never get her driver’s license, she will never have the satisfaction of having her first salary. She couldn’t choose the university she wanted to attend or feel the anticipation of waiting for that acceptance or rejection letter,” Meghan Petty said. “She’ll never be able to get married or have kids herself – and she probably hadn’t even begun to think about those things because she was supposed to have her whole life to figure that out.”

“No strength can prepare you for hours of waiting and worrying only to see your parents come home with one of your siblings but not another,” she continued. “The initial pain of finding out she was dead was nothing compared to the pain of living without her. I continue to wait for her to walk through the door.

Meghan Petty said Alaina’s death was “leading” on her mind at all times.

“His absence screams at me, even when I’m focused on other things,” she said.

“I’m trying to shut it down,” she said, as she “can’t emotionally comprehend” that her sister is gone.

Cruz pleaded guilty in October 2021 to 17 counts of first degree murder and 17 counts of attempted first degree murder. Cruz said in court last year that he believes the victims’ families should be the ones to decide whether he faces the death penalty.

The jury’s decision must be unanimous for the death penalty.

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