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Parkland shooter death trial: Jury hears testimony

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. –

A Girl Scout and avid reader. A trombone player who loves movies and basketball. An A student who loves Irish dance and wishes to take a trip to Ireland.

Juries in the trial of Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz heard tearful statements Wednesday from three families whose children were among 17 people he murdered at his high school Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas on February 14, 2018. This is the third day in a row of such testimony – but it doesn’t make it any easier to hear as once again the jurors, the audience and even the law. Cruz’s monk wiped his tears.

Fourteen families have now released statements, with the final three set for Thursday after a jury toured the three-story classroom building where the massacre took place.

Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in October to the murders; The trial, in its third week, is only to decide if he will be sentenced to death or life without parole.

Tony and Gina Montalto told a jury of seven men, five women and ten substitutes how their daughter Gina saved a toddler from drowning at age 10, and described how turtle statue that the child’s grateful mother gave her. It still decorates her unused room.

Gina, 14 when she died, had a contagious personality, they said, and was an avid reader.

“She once told me she wanted to live in a library,” her mother said. The children’s wing at the Parkland library is now named for her.

Her father, wearing the same outfit he wore to their last dance, said her death had strained his relationship with his wife and angered her younger brother.

“Gina is our best girl and Anthony is our best guy,” he said. “My son struggles to understand Gina’s death at his school.”

They used to play together “making our house full of laughter,” he said. “Now is the deafening silence.”

Max Schachter talks about his son, Alex, the dedicated trombone player in the school band. The 14-year-old also loves movies and plays a guard for a basketball team.

“Our family is broken. There is always an emptiness,” his father said, adding that there is a part of him that will “always be sad and miserable”.

He said the family is haunted by the fact that they will never know if Alex will go to his dream school, the University of Connecticut, or stay closer to home.

“It was a constant pain,” he said. “I wish every day that this was a nightmare I could wake up from.”

He said that at 5 a.m. on the day of Alex’s funeral, he and Alex’s brother, Ryan, were struggling to finish the eulogy when Ryan suggested looking in the trash can in Alex’s bedroom. There, they found a poem titled “Life is like a roller coaster,” which Alex had written for his English class. Ryan read it to the jury.

Isabel Dalu, a friend on behalf of the family of the Cara Loughran shooting victim, said Cara always reminds her of a “porcelain doll”. She got an A, loves the beach and surfing. Dalu says she’s also looking forward to a holiday in Ireland that the family has planned for the summer of 2018.

“Losing Cara has left a heartbreaking absence from their lives,” Dalu said.

Dalu’s daughter was “the first friend and sister she didn’t have,” she said. They both love Irish dance, and Cara is looking forward to performing at the St Patrick’s Day festival, she said.

Dalu said her stepdaughter still dances Irish “to continue Cara’s legacy.”

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