FORT LAUDERDALE — Nikolas Cruz, the alleged shooter at February’s mass killing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is back in court, this time with a stunning pronouncement.
Cruz, 19, has an inheritance from his deceased mother Lynda Cruz in the wings, perhaps on the order of $800,000 to a million dollars. Broward County presiding Judge Elizabeth Scherer is thus attempting to determine if Cruz should have to pay for his own defense, currently provided by public defenders. Ever one to surprise, Cruz and his legal team had other ideas.
“Mr. Cruz does not want those funds, whatever money that he is entitled to,” said attorney Melissa McNeill. “He does not want that money. He would like that money donated to an organization that the victims’ family believes would be able to facilitate healing in our community or an opportunity to educate our community about the issues that have ripened over the last four or five months.”
Cruz himself was not communicative in either words or expression, merely staring at the floor as McNeill made her announcement at the hearing.
Howard Finkelstein, another of Cruz’s attorneys, agreed.
“Let it go to those who have been hurt, period,” Finkelstein urged the judge.
Whether Cruz is actually contrite or this is some bid to mitigate his sentence and avoid the death penalty sought by the prosecution is uncertain.
Also uncertain is the actual level of Cruz’s wealth. He has a very small amount of Microsoft stock, and was a beneficiary of his mother’s life insurance policy and is due $25,000 of those proceeds, which are currently unclaimed. These modest amounts would hardly put a dent in his costly legal defense, though an annuity Cruz inherited may well be worth much more and has caught the court’s attention.
Cruz, of course, is being held for the murder of 17 students and teachers at the Parkland school.
Judge Scherer intends to decide whether Cruz should be contributing financially to his own defense efforts before the April 27th hearing to determine the trial schedule.
The revelation of Cruz’s likely wealth casts his destructive choices in an even stranger light, and only adds to the confusion and senselessness of this ongoing tragic saga.