FORT LAUDERDALE — In an odd and somewhat nauseating turn, Nikolas Cruz, the alleged shooter at last month’s mass killing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has begun receiving piles of fan letters and love notes in the mail.
Cruz, 19, has also received hundreds of dollars directed by crazed fans to his commissary account at Broward County jail.
As it happens, this is nothing new, and the same phenomenon has occurred with infamous murderers from Charles Manson and Ted Bundy to the Menendez brothers, both of whom actually found wives amid their pool of prison groupies.
The recent killer’s admirers include not just teenage girls, but also adult women and even men. For Cruz, who was by most accounts a social pariah prior to the shooting, the current level of positive attention is well outside the norm, even if he’s not able to fully enjoy it.
“We read a few religious ones to him that extended wishes for his soul and to come to God,” said Cruz’s attorney, Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, “but we have not and will not read him the fan letters or share the photos of scantily-clad teenage girls.”
The influx of correspondence began early. In a letter mailed six days after the mass shooting, a Texas woman declared, “I reserve the right to care about you, Nikolas!” in a bunny-adorned greeting card.
Another piece of Texas correspondence—this one written on March 15th—read: “I’m 18-years-old. I’m a senior in high school. When I saw your picture on the television, something attracted me to you.”
The envelope was covered in drawings of hearts and smiley-faces. The letter continued: “Your eyes are beautiful and the freckles on your face make you so handsome. I’m really skinny and have 34C sized breasts.” She concluded her letter with some family-friendly jokes about peanut butter and gummy bears.
The letters have flooded in from all over the country. A great many contain sexually suggestive photos and content.
“In my 40 years as public defender, I’ve never seen this many letters to a defendant,” Finkelstein said. “Everyone now and then gets a few, but nothing like this.”
Although the attorney marvels at the level of attention, he was also more than a little rattled. He continued: “The letters shake me up because they are written by regular, everyday teenage girls from across the nation. That scares me. It’s perverted.”
As for the commissary account—the reserve of funds a prisoner can use to purchase snacks and various sundries—Cruz is up to about $800, mostly derived from his fan base, which has spread to social media as well.
“Whether or not he did this, he was completely failed. He deserved to get the help he needs and he deserves a fair trial,” reads in part the mission statement of pro-Cruz Facebook group “Nikolas Cruz – the First Victim.” Before going private, the group was up to 300 members.
Cruz’s brother Zachary Cruz, himself a controversial figure with recent brushes with the law, paid the shooter a visit to talk about his now-elevated persona.
“[Zachary] has been heard and observed discussing how popular his brother is now,” said Broward Assistant State Attorney Sarahnell Murphy. “That his face is everywhere and his name is national.”
If the 17 murders aren’t enough to deter people from jumping on the “Cruz” bandwagon, it would be worthwhile to heed the words of Finkelstein on the matter:
“It’s important that the community understand that as this case continues, the awfulness will continue to spread,” the lawyer said. “Everything about this case is awful and evil.”
If this is how people pledged to defend Cruz are forced to speak about him, it’s safe to say he’s probably not deserving of the enthusiastic support the letters convey.