PARKLAND, FLA. (WSVN) - For those affected by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, Friday’s guilty plea from Nikolas Cruz in the assault of a jail guard means they are one step closer to hearing his guilty plea in the homicide case.
Cruz pled guilty to assaulting a Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy in jail back in 2018.
The latest developments come as the building where 17 students and teachers were gunned down on Feb. 14, 2018 remains standing.
“Most of the families relive it every day,” Broward County School Board member Debbi Hixon said.
Hixon lost her husband, Stoneman Douglas athletic director Chris Hixon, in the mass shooting.
Family members of slain Parkland victim 17-year-old Nicholas Dworet attended the hearing in the assault case.
7News cameras captured the moment they walked into the courtroom.
Dworet was the captain of MSD’s swim team and had dreams of competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
He was offered a scholarship to the University of Indianapolis.
Hunter Pollack, the brother of victim Meadow Pollack, tweeted, “Time to sentence this monster. Our families need justice to be served. It’s 1,338 days overdue.”
“We all know he is guilty, and finally, he knows he is guilty and will share that,” said artist Manuel Oliver, the father of victim Joaquin Oliver. “That is fine.”
Some family members said they will be getting closure when Cruz pleads guilty to the Valentine’s Day massacre, while others are saying they will never have closure.
“There is no resolution here,” Oliver said. “We started this battle by losing the battle. I lost my son. Nothing, nothing that happens, I’m talking about justice, money, whatever you call it, will ever, ever, be in that same level of loss and pain. I found this guy guilty since the last four years. That’s the reality. My son is not here. Joaquin is not here.”
Lori Alhadeff’s daughter, Alyssa, was killed in the massacre. Like Hixon, she has become a Broward School Board member.
“I appreciate that this finally has started, you know, it’s been almost four years and I feel like this is the first time that things are finally starting to move forward,” Alhadeff said.
Former MSD teacher Jim Gard said he was shocked that Cruz has decided to plead guilty in the case.
“I was surprised, pleasantly surprised because it makes sense,” Gard said. “I thought he was initially going to plead guilty back in 2018. For some reason, who knows, lawyers what have you, that changes, and now he’s back to pleading guilty. I’m glad because there’s some closure.”
The inside of the freshman building has been left untouched and remains the same. It was left untouched to be used in the trial, as jurors were expected to walk through it while being told how the tragic events of the day unfolded.
“It just feels like we are in a holding pattern, and this is a step to being able to get to the other side,” Hixon said.
In addition to being MSD’s athletic director, Hixon’s husband was the school’s wrestling coach, a U.S. Navy veteran and a father of two.
The big question remains now: what will happen to the building?
Some are saying it is time with this new plea to move forward and destroy the freshman building.
“They can take that building and knock it down once everything is done,” Gard said. “It won’t drag on for years and years, and a not guilty plea could be.”
For many in the Parkland community, the building is a constant reminder of the horrors that took place that day for the students, teachers and faculty who were there.
“I don’t have to see it all the time, but when I have to, it’s a mental struggle that I have to work through before I get there,” Hixon said. “It plays over and over again.”
Alhadeff said she would also like to see the building demolished.
“It’s very traumatic. That’s where my daughter was killed. Of course, I don’t like seeing that building either, and as quickly we can go through this process to expedite it and get to the execution of the shooter, the better off we all are,” she said.
As for whether they support the death penalty for Cruz, Alhadeff and Hixon made it clear where they stand.
“For me, until he is executed, then I can start my healing process,” Alhadeff said.
“I don’t think that person needs to be on this earth anymore,” Hixon said.
Oliver said, no matter if Cruz gets the death penalty, his death will not compare to the way his son was killed.
“I do know that the way my son died was very painful; he was shot four times in the middle of a lot of kids screaming and dying and falling on the floor, so nothing will be even close to that way of dying,” Oliver said. “At the end of the day, I really hope it’s not out of table. I think it should stay there, but whatever happens to this person, you know what? It’s a secondary thing for us. We are working on this issue and trying to keep more people alive and prevent this from happening to anyone else.”
Many other families said they will comment on the guilty plea when it happens next week.
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