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Testimony: School shooter witnessed dad’s death at age 5

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Assistant Public Defender Nawal Bashimam and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz stand as jurors enter the courtroom during the penalty phase of Cruz's trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings.
Assistant Public Defender Nawal Bashimam and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz stand as jurors enter the courtroom during the penalty phase of Cruz's trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. Cruz previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool) (Amy Beth Bennett/ South Florida Sun Sentinel) Photo Gallery

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz’s attorneys presented more testimony Monday that the mass killer exhibited violent, disruptive and troubled behavior from his earliest years and, just before his sixth birthday, witnessed his adoptive father’s sudden death.

Finai Browd, a close friend of Cruz’s late adoptive mother Lynda, said she was told Roger Cruz had been in the family’s den with Nikolas and his younger brother Zachary when he came running and crying past the kitchen where his mother was making lunch.

Lynda Cruz asked her son if he was upset because his father had yelled at him.

“As clear as sunshine he said, ‘No, Daddy is dead,’” Browd said she was told by his mother. Lynda Cruz rushed into the den and found her husband had succumbed to a heart attack on the couch. Previous testimony showed that Nikolas Cruz did not get grief counseling until four years after the 2004 death.

Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in October to murdering 14 students and three staff members at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. A seven-man, five-woman jury will decide whether he is sentenced to death or life without parole. For the former Stoneman Douglas student to received a death sentence, the jury must be unanimous.

Trying to overcome the emotional, gruesome and graphic evidence and testimony the prosecution presented over three weeks as it laid out the killings, the defense has spent the first five days of its case trying to show that from the time he was conceived in the womb of a crack-smoking, hard-drinking prostitute he was put on a road that created a killer.

His public defenders played video recorded testimony of Browd, who has health issues that prevented her from coming to court. She and Lynda Cruz became best friends while working at a New York insurance company in the 1980s, with they and their husbands moving to Florida at approximately the same time so they could remain near each other.

She said Lynda Cruz had four miscarriages before she was able to adopt Nikolas in 1998 when she was 49 and her husband 61. She said Lynda Cruz had dreamed of being a mother so went through a private attorney to adopt Nikolas and, two years, later his half-brother Zachary.

Browd said Lynda Cruz was a doting mother when she brought Nikolas home.

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