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Parkland shooting gunman sentenced to life in prison, called a "monster" by victims' family members

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Parkland school shooter sentenced to life in prison without parole 03:18

The gunman who killed 17 people in the Parkland shooting was sentenced to life in prison without parole Wednesday for the 2018 high school massacre in Florida. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer had no choice but to impose the sentence as the jury in the penalty trial could not unanimously agree that Nikolas Cruz deserved the death penalty.

Before the gunman formally received his sentence for the Valentine's Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in suburban Fort Lauderdale, family members of the victims, and survivors of the shooting, were given time to address him.

"It was extremely painful to hear all the horrific details of this massacre at our children's high school," Annika Dworet, who with her husband, Mitch, attended every day of the gunman's trial. "Just to be in the same room as this monster who killed our son Nicholas and attempted to murder our son Alex. It's unbearable."

She continued, "One of the most disgusting and unprofessional actions that occurred in this courtroom was the defense team holding, touching and giggling with this cold-blooded murderer."

The gunman, shackled and wearing a red jail jumpsuit, stared at the speakers but showed little emotion, as he did the day before. He removed a face mask after Jennifer Guttenberg, mother of Jaime Guttenberg, told him he shouldn't be wearing one.

"It's disrespectful to be hiding your expressions under your mask when we as the families are sitting here talking to you, lowered down in your seat, hunched over, trying to make yourself look innocent when you're not," Guttenberg said.

"You are a monster": Parkland shooting victims' loved ones address gunman ahead of sentencing 03:33

Since Tuesday, members of the victims' families and some of the 17 wounded who survived the shooting didn't waste the opportunity to verbally thrash the gunman face-to-face after almost five years.

"The idea that you, a cold-blooded killer, can actually live each day, eat your meals and put your head down at night seems completely unjust," teacher Stacey Lippel, who was wounded in the shooting, told the gunman. "The only comfort I have is that your life in prison will be filled with horror and fear, so my hope for you is that you die, sooner rather than later."

Those who spoke went to a lectern about 20 feet from the 24-year-old gunman, stared him in the eye and let out their anger and grief. Many also criticized a Florida law that requires jury unanimity for a death sentence to be imposed — jurors voted 9-3 on Oct. 13 for execution.

"He has escaped this punishment because a minority of the jury was given the power to overturn the majority decision made by people who were able to see him for what he is — a remorseless monster who deserves no mercy," Meghan Petty said. Her younger sister, 14-year-old Alaina, died when the gunman fired his AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle into her classroom as he stalked the halls of a three-story building for seven minutes, firing 140 shots. He had been planning the shooting for seven months.

"A person has to be incredibly sick to want to hurt another human being. Even sicker to dwell on the desire and craft a plan and unimaginably evil to execute that plan, which didn't just hurt people but ended lives," she said. "To add insult to murder he was even arrogant enough to plan a disguise believing that he'd be able to escape his actions while my sister lay dying on a dirty classroom floor."

The gunman, a former Stoneman Douglas student and then 19, wore a school shirt so that he could blend in with fleeing students as he escaped. He was arrested an hour later.

Patricia Oliver, who lost her son Joaquin, railed on Tuesday against the defense attorneys who'd argued their client should be spared because of his mother's drug and alcohol abuse while pregnant and he never got the help he needed.

"Karma," she said, "will eventually catch up to you all."

Patricia Padauy Oliver speaks during the sentencing hearing for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Nov. 1, 2022.
Patricia Padauy Oliver speaks during the sentencing hearing for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Nov. 1, 2022. Amy Beth Bennett/Pool via Reuters
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