Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz's disturbing jailhouse drawings show images of mass murder, Satanic messages
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Since the beginning of his trial, confessed Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz has been seen sitting at the defense table, often with his head down as he doodles in a notebook.
His defense attorneys say he often does the same thing in his cell at the Broward County Jail, where he is being held in solitary confinement.
For the first time, the public is being given a glimpse of what he has been drawing while behind bars.
On Monday, many of Cruz's sketches were released to local media outlets in South Florida. As WSVN reports, many of the pages were too graphic to broadcast.
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Cruz's drawings made public
Several drawings show automatic weapons and various ammunition. Others show monstrous faces, pentagrams and the words "Hail Satan!" On page after page, he scrawled three 6s — said to be the mark of the anti-Christ. He states he does not believe in a god, only the devil.
"I do not want to be bothered by anyone or anything. I can't wait to die. Blood, blood. I only wanna see blood fall," he wrote on one page, adding that he hopes there is another mass shooting.
At one point, he writes about his loneliness and his desire to be buried with a woman after his death.
On one page he scrawled the very issue at stake in his trial, where the jury will decide whether he will get the death penalty or spend the rest of his life in prison. He wrote: "I do not want life please help me go to death row!"
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Defense gets underway
Cruz’s attorneys began their defense Monday, hoping to convince his jury to sentence him to life without parole instead of death for slaying 14 students and three staff members during the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
His lead attorney, Melisa McNeill, told the jury during her deferred opening statement that Cruz has fetal alcohol and drug issues that weren’t dealt with adequately by his adoptive mother, Lynda Cruz, who suffered from severe depression and financial woes after her husband died suddenly when their son was 5. McNeill told the jury that doesn’t excuse what her 23-year-old client did, but are factors they should consider as her team presents its case over several weeks.
"He is a brain-damaged human," she said.
She said nothing in Cruz’s life story will erase that the seven men, five women and 10 alternates have "seen things that will haunt us forever." Cruz pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of first-degree murder and the trial will only decide his sentence.
"Everyone knows there is one person responsible for all that pain and all of that suffering, and that person is Nikolas Cruz," she said. But she hopes jurors will remember that the law "never requires you to vote for death," not even "in the worst case imaginable, and it’s arguable that this is the worst case imaginable."
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McNeill deferred her opening statement from the trial’s first day of July 18 to the beginning of her team’s case. For Cruz to be sentenced to death, the jury must be unanimous — if even one juror votes for life, that will be his sentence.
The defense is seeking to overcome horrendous evidence laid out by lead prosecutor Mike Satz and his team, capped by the jurors’ visit to the fenced-off building that Cruz stalked, firing about 150 shots down halls and into classrooms. Jurors saw dried blood on floors and walls, bullet holes in doors and windows and remnants of Valentine’s Day cards and balloons.
Cruz's birth mom abused cocaine, alcohol
The defense began its case by showing that Cruz’s late birth mother, Brenda Woodard, was a Fort Lauderdale prostitute who smoked crack cocaine and drank Colt 45 malt liquor and Cisco fortified wine during her pregnancy with him. It is unknown whether Cruz’s birth father was a customer or a rapist -- there was conflicting testimony on that -- but his identity is unknown and he was not part of Woodard’s life.
Cruz spent much of the day looking up at the proceedings — during the prosecution's case, he usually stared at the defense table and scribbled on a pad.
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Carolyn Deakins, a former prostitute, testified Monday that she and Woodard were drinking beer one day in 1998 when Woodard got sick. She thought it was because of drugs, but Woodard told her she was pregnant. Deakins said she angrily told Woodard she was harming her baby with drugs and drinking, but Woodard replied she was putting the child up for adoption and didn’t care.
"Nickolas, I am sorry, but that’s how it was," she said, peering over at the defense table. Cruz looked down.
Half-sister testifies about tumultuous upbringing
Cruz’s half-sister, Danielle Woodard, nearly 12 years older, was brought to the courtroom from a Miami-Dade County jail where she is awaiting trial on a carjacking charge. Monday was the first time she had seen Cruz in person since she held him minutes after his birth — "he was really squirmy." Their mother kicked her out of the maternity ward for asking if they could keep him.
Holding back tears, and visibly nervous, Woodard recalled in horrific detail, her traumatic childhood. She said as a pre-teen she watched her mother regularly drink alcohol, smoke crack cocaine, and prostitute herself. She also recalled at least one instance, where her mom made her pee in a cup to pass a drug test during probation.
Woodward told jurors that her mom's addiction took priority over her, her half-brother Nikolas, or her other son, Zachary. Asked overall how Brenda was as a mother, Danielle replied with one word: "horrible."
"She had an addiction. She always put that first," Woodard said. Cruz nodded after she said she still loved her brothers.
Her testimony reiterated Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeil’s opening statements that Cruz’s brain "is broken," as she tried to convince the jury for life in prison instead of the death penalty.
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Adoptive parents noticed problems early on
After his birth, Linda and Roger Cruz adopted him — but almost immediately noticed that he was not like other kids.
His development was severely stunted behaviorally and academically, and he suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome and antisocial personality disorder, she said.
Susan Lubar, a former Broward County teacher of preschool special needs, testified that Cruz had severe language and behavioral problems when she taught him at age 4. She said he would act like a tiger, curling his hands like paws and hissing at other children if they got too close.
"Nikolas would push children, scratch at them, topple over furniture, he would stay away from other children and if they got too close, he would pounce," she testified.
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To calm him, she put a sheet over a table where he would go to be alone with toys and picture books, something she never did with any child since in her long career.
Other children "knew that was his space and wouldn’t try to go in there," she said.
Two years after adopting Nikolas, Linda and Roger Cruz also adopted his biological brother, Zachary Cruz. At the age of 5, Cruz witnessed his father die of a heart attack.
His mother struggled to cope as a single parent and made shocking decisions — including taking her troubled son to buy his first gun two years before the massacre.
The Associated Press and FOX News contributed to this report.