“Soon she’ll be a professional soccer player. She’ll get a law degree and become one of the most successful business negotiation lawyers the world will ever see,” Ilan Alhadeff said Tuesday in a Broward County courtroom. Death penalty hearing for her daughter’s killer.
“She was getting married and I was going to my father-daughter dance,” his voice broke. “She had a lovely family, four children, lived in a lovely house – a beach house next door.
“All those plans came to an end with Alyssa’s murder,” he said.
The families of the 17 people killed in the Parkland school shooting continued to take the stand Tuesday, offering victim impact statements to explain the toll the killings took as a jury decides whether to sentence the shooter to death.
To recommend the death penalty, jurors must be unanimous. If they do, the judge could follow the recommendation or sentence Cruz to life in prison instead.
To make their decision, jurors will hear arguments from prosecutors and defense attorneys about aggravating factors and mitigating circumstances — reasons why Cruz should or shouldn’t be executed. Victim impact statements add another layer, giving victims’ families and friends their own day in court, although the judge said the statements should not be weighed as aggravating factors.
“We were a family unit of five,” said Tom Hoyer, whose 15-year-old son Luke — the youngest of three — was killed. “Two, four, six seat tables at a restaurant. Two, four, six ticket packages to events. Things like that.”
But the Hoyers are no longer a family of five, and “the world will never feel right now that we’re a family of four,” Hoyer said.
“When Luke died something was missing in me,” she said. “I will never, ever let go of that feeling.”
The testimony of the parents of the 14 slain students focused not only on who their children were, but also on who they would not become.
Nicholas Duvoret, the captain of the high school’s swim team, was on scholarship at the University of Indianapolis at the time he was killed, his mother, Annika Duvoret, testified Tuesday. He wanted to study finance and move to Boston with his girlfriend.
“Nick had big goals — bigger than most of us dare to dream,” he said. Beside his bed, he taped a note that read, “I want to become a Swedish Olympian and compete for my country in Tokyo 2020. I will give everything in my body and mind to achieve the goal. I’m set.”
“Now,” Annika Duvoret said, “we’ll never know if she’ll have reached her goal of going to the Olympics.”
“I’ll never get over it, I’ll never get over it,” he said Monday. “My life will never be the same.”
‘Our lives are ruined’
Cruz had no apparent reaction Monday to any of the victim impact statements, although one of his attorneys was seen wiping away tears, as were at least two members of the jury.
“It’s been four years and four months since he was taken from us, his friends and his family,” Patricia Oliver said of her son, who was 17 when he was killed. “We miss him more than words can say and love him more,” she said, adding, “Our lives have been shattered and changed forever.”
Joaquin’s sister, Andrea Kersey, described her 6-foot-1 baby brother as “energetic, vibrant, loud, confident, strong, empathetic, understanding, smart, passionate, outgoing, playful, loving, competitive, rebellious, funny, loyal and constantly something.” He only spoke when he felt no.”
Victoria Gonzalez took the stand Tuesday. She became Joaquin’s girlfriend the day of the shooting, Gonzalez told the court, but they had already referred to each other as “soul mates forever” and she described him as a “mysterious personality, romantic personality.” His name, he said, is “etched into the depths of my soul.”
Kelly Petty, mother of victim Alaina Petty, described the 14-year-old as a “very loving person”.
“She loved her friends, she loved her family, and most importantly, she loved God,” Kelly Petty said of her daughter. “I’m heartbroken that I won’t be able to watch her become the wonderful young woman she is.”
Alaine’s sister Megan echoed that sentiment, telling the court, “I loved her growing up. She would have been a blessing to the world.”
CNN’s Carlos Suarez and Sara Weisfeldt contributed to this report.
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