Grieving father erupts at Parkland school shooter trial

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A grieving father erupted in anger Tuesday as he spoke to jurors about the daughter of Florida school gunman Nikolas Cruz, who was murdered along with 16 others four years ago, his voice rising as he recounted his “infectious laugh that I can only watch now on TikTok videos.

Dr Ilan Alhadeff’s moving testimony about his 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, marked a second day of tears as one family after another took the witness stand to make heartbreaking statements about their deceased loved ones at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on February 14, 2018.

He and his wife, Lori, described Alyssa’s role as captain of his football team, the friend others always turned to for advice or a shoulder to cry on, and her plan to become business lawyer. He cried as he said he wouldn’t dance with his daughter at her wedding or see the children she had.

“My eldest daughter, daddy’s girl was taken from me!” cried Alhadeff, internal doctor. “I can watch my friends, my neighbors, my co-workers hang out enjoying their daughters, enjoy all the normal stages, enjoy the normal joys, and I can only watch videos or go to the cemetery to see my daughter.”

He said one of Alyssa’s two younger brothers was too young to understand her death when it happened, but now “asks to visit her sister at the cemetery once in a while”.

“It is not normal!” he said angrily.

Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder in October; the trial must only determine whether he is sentenced to death or to life without parole. During the two days of family statements, he showed little emotion, though several of his attorneys wiped away tears and Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer’s voice cracked as she gave instructions. He mostly stares straight ahead, occasionally looking at the table where he is seated.

As one family testifies, others are sobbing in the gallery waiting their turn. They exchange packets of handkerchiefs, rub shoulders and, during the break, hug each other. Some jurors wipe away their tears, but most remain stoic.

Annika Dworet, her husband Mitch sitting darkly beside her, spoke to jurors about their son Nick, who was 17 when he died. A star swimmer, he had accepted a scholarship to the University of Indianapolis and was training in hopes of competing for his mother’s native Sweden in the 2020 Olympics. His younger brother, Alex, was injured in the shooting .

“He was always inclusive of everyone. On his last night with us, he spent time talking to the younger guys on the swim team, giving them some advice,” she said.

But now, she says, “our hearts will be broken forever.”

“We will always live with excruciating pain. We have an empty room in our house. There is an empty chair at our dining table. Alex will never have a brother to talk to or hang out with. They will never go a car ride, blasting some really loud music. We didn’t get to see Nick graduate from high school or college. We’ll never see him get married.

“We will always hesitate before answering the question: ‘How many children do you have?'”

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