“My life will never be the same.” Court hears first statements about victim impact in Parkland’s death penalty trial

“She’ll soon be a professional soccer player. She’s going to get her law degree, and possibly become one of the most successful business negotiation lawyers the world sees,” Ilan Al-Hadef told a Broward County courtroom on Tuesday. The trial of his daughter’s killer was sentenced to death.

“You were supposed to get married, and I was going to do a dad and daughter dance,” he said in a choppy voice. “She had a beautiful family, four children, who lived in a wonderful house – a house on the beach on the side.

“All those plans ended with Alyssa’s death,” he said.

Families of 17 people killed in the Parkland school shooting continued to take a stand Tuesday, providing victim impact data to clarify the murder toll as a jury decides whether to sentence the shooter to death.

Nicholas Cruz, now 23, pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder, and this stage of his criminal trial aims to determine his sentence: Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, while Cruz’s lawyers are demanding a prison sentence for the jury. Life without the possibility of parole.

To recommend the death penalty, the jurors must be unanimous. If they do, the judge can choose to follow the recommendation or sentence Cruz to life imprisonment instead.

To make their decision, the jurors will hear prosecutors and defense attorneys argue the aggravating factors and mitigating circumstances — the reasons Cruz should or should not be executed. Victim impact statements add another layer, giving victims’ families and friends their day in court, even though the judge told the jury that the statements are not intended to be evaluated as aggravating factors.

“We were a family of five always trying to fit into a world that was built for even numbers,” said Tom Hoyer, who killed his son Luke, the youngest of three. “Four-seat and six-seater tables in a restaurant. Packages of two, four, and six tickets to events. Things like that.”

But the Hoyer family is no longer a family of five, said Hoyer, “and the world will never be comfortable anymore, now that we’re a family of four.”

“When Luke died, he lost something in me,” he said. “I will never get over that feeling.”

‘I will never get over it’

The testimony of parents of 14 students who were murdered focused not only on who their children were, but also on who they would never become – an endless catalog of things left unsaid.

Nicholas Dorett, the high school swim team’s captain, had just received a scholarship to Indianapolis University at the time he was murdered, and his mother, Annika Dorett, testified on Tuesday. He wanted to study finance and move to Boston with his girlfriend.

“Nick had big goals – bigger than most of us would dare dream of,” she said. Next to his bed, he made a note that read, “I want to become a Swedish Olympian and go to Tokyo 2020 to compete for my country. I will do everything I have in my body and mind to achieve the goals. They put.”

“Now, we will never know if he will reach his goal of going to the Olympics,” said Annika Dorit.

Linda Beagle Shulman holds a photo of her son Scott Beagle before making a victim impact statement.

Jennifer Guttenberg, the mother of 14-year-old Jaime, told the court that watching her daughter’s friends and classmates grow up and achieve things Jaime would never do was “very difficult”.

Family get-togethers and holidays are tough, too, with less seat at the table and no Jaime to keep “everyone hopeful and laughing”.

“There is cooperation, but no celebration,” Gutenberg said. “There is a deafening silence among everyone, because they don’t want Jaime’s name to be mentioned to cause pain, but they don’t want to forget her either.”

The past four years have been no less painful for Linda Beagle Schulman, who told the court Monday that it’s been 1,630 days since she spoke to her son Scott Beagle, a geography teacher who was murdered while driving students to a safe place in his classroom.

“I will never get over it, I will never get over it,” she said on Monday. “My life will never be the same.”

Our lives are shattered

Cruz had no apparent reaction Monday to any of the victim impact statements, although one of his defense attorneys was seen wiping a tear, as did at least two other jurors.

“It’s been four years and four months since he was taken from us and his friends and 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 dearly,” she said, adding, “Our lives are shattered and changed forever.”

Joaquin’s sister, Andrea Guercy, said her 6-foot-6 baby brother was “energetic, energetic, vocal, confident, strong, sympathetic, understanding, intelligent, emotional, extroverted, playful, loving, rebellious, rebellious, And loyal and persistent. He spoke up when he felt that something wasn’t fair.”

Victoria Gonzalez, who was called the girlfriend of Joaquin Oliver, but said they called themselves '  Soulmates & quot;  She wipes tears as she gives a statement of the impact of her victim.

Victoria Gonzalez also took the podium on Tuesday. On the day of the shooting, she became Joaquin’s girlfriend, Gonzalez told the court, but they actually referred to each other as “always soulmates,” calling him “incarnated magic and incarnate love.” His name, she said, is “engraved deep in my soul.”

Kelly Petty, mother of victim Alina Petty, described the late 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 feel sad that I won’t be able to watch her become the amazing young woman she was turning into.”

Alan’s sister, Megan, echoed the same sentiments, telling the court: “I would have loved to see her grow up. She would have been a blessing to the world.”

Gina Hoyer, mother of Luke Heuer, said her 15-year-old son’s room remains the same. She testified that his glasses and charger were still on the table and that his clothes had not been touched. She said she gets physically sick when anything moves in the room.

Meadow Pollack’s mother, Chara Kaplan, told the jurors to explain how her daughter’s death affected her, and she had to rip her heart out and show them it had shattered into a million pieces.

“(Mido’s death) destroyed my life and my ability to lead an absolutely productive life,” she said.

CNN’s Carlos Suarez and Sarah Weisvelt contributed to this report.

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