‘We'll Never Heal': Victims and Family React to Parkland School Shooter's Guilty Plea

An emotional day in court for the families of those killed in the MSD shooting

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It was an emotional day for the victims and family members of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as the gunman responsible pleaded guilty to all charges.

Relatives of the victims who sat in the courtroom or watched the hearing via Zoom on Wednesday shook their heads or broke down in tears as Nikolas Cruz entered his pleas and later apologized for his crimes.

Tony Montalto, whose daughter Gina was killed in the shooting, said it was an "absolutely ridiculous" statement from the confessed gunman.

"Today we saw a cold and calculating killer confess to the murder of my daughter Gina and 16 other innocent victims at their school," Montalto said. "His guilty pleas are the first step in the judicial process but there is no change for my family. Our bright, beautiful, and beloved daughter Gina is gone while her killer still enjoys the blessing of life in prison."

Gena Hoyer, whose 15-year-old son Luke died in the shooting, saw Cruz's statement as part of a defense strategy "to keep a violent, evil person off death row."

She said her son was “a sweet young man who had a life ahead of him and the person you saw in there today chose to take his life. He does not deserve life in prison."

Cruz pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and another 17 counts of attempted murder in the Feb. 14, 2018 Parkland shooting, and will now face either life in prison or a death sentence.

Parkland shooting victim Anthony Borges said the fate of the confessed school shooter is up to God. “That's not my decision. My decision is to be a better person and to change the world. I don't want this to happen again. It hurts, it hurts, it really hurts."

Anthony Borges, a former Stoneman Douglas student who was shot five times and severely wounded, told reporters after the hearing that he accepted Cruz’s apology, but noted that it was not up to him to decide the confessed murderer's fate.

"He made a decision to shoot the school," Borges said. "I am not God to make the decision to kill him or not. That’s not my decision. My decision is to be a better person and to change the world for every kid. I don’t want this to happen to anybody again. It hurts. It hurts. It really hurts. So, I am just going to keep going. That’s it."

Many parents, including Max Schachter, the father of victim Alex Schachter, said Cruz should be shown no mercy.

NBC 6 has team coverage with reaction from those injured and those who lost their loved ones in the tragic school shooting in 2018.

"He ruined 17 people’s families' lives. He ruined my life and the life of my family and we’ll never heal. My life will never be the same and we miss Alex every day," he said. "He gave no mercy to any of the 17 and the court should not give him any.”

Debra Hixon, widow of Chris Hixon, the Stoneman Douglas athletic director who was killed in the shooting, was among those who listened as former Broward State Attorney Mike Satz recounted the details of the murders during Wednesday's hearing.

"We should be honoring the victims, you heard what happened, you heard what happened to all those people, how can we not honor and show them, we have to stop giving this person any more energy," Hixon said. "He has sucked all the energy out of so many people. We have to stop allowing him the power to take anything else from us."

Hixon also said she wasn't buying Cruz's apology.

“He said he was sorry and that he wanted to do good in the world. Well my reaction to that is you should of thought of that on February 14th," she said. "It’s too little, too late now."

NBC 6 and AP
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