The probate case involving the Parkland school shooter’s dead mother took a strange turn Thursday when a hearing in the matter was abruptly canceled and documents in the court file showed the only asset is an old car — a 2010 Kia.
A family friend, Roxanne Deschamps, of Lantana, had petitioned the Broward Circuit Court the day after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to be named the personal representative of the estate of Lynda Cruz, mother of accused shooter Nikolas Cruz.
Lynda died of pneumonia on Nov. 1.
Deschamps, a former neighbor, had told the court she is caring for Nikolas’s younger brother Zachary.
Since the devastating shooting that killed 17, Nikolas, who had a job at a Dollar Tree store, has been held in jail without bond and is being represented by the Broward Public Defender’s Office.
The office only represents indigent people, however, and has a keen interest determining whether Nikolas, 19, is heir to assets that could pay for a private lawyer. His criminal defense team was in the courthouse Thursday to attend the morning court hearing on the probate case but was mystified as to why it was canceled.
Deschamps has not been giving interviews and has shooed reporters away from her home.
Her attorney, Audra Simovitch of Boca Raton, who filed papers scrapping the hearing, could not be reached for comment Thursday. The phone number for her law office was not in service any longer and she did not respond to an email from the Sun Sentinel.
Earlier this week, Deschamps amended her request, asking a judge to name her and Zachary, now 18, as co-administrators of the estate — to be able to pay bills and find and distribute money to the beneficiaries, with court oversight. Lynda died without a will, according to the court petition.
Before the shooting, Nikolas told the parents of a schoolmate, who took him in after his mother’s death, that he stood to inherit $800,000 when he turns 22.
Where the money is — if it exists at all — is unknown, said Gordon Weekes, chief assistant public defender.
Nikolas had a comfortable upbringing, living in the upscale suburb of Parkland in a sprawling five-bedroom, three-bath house with a pool. His father, Roger, was a successful businessman, who died in 2004, when Nikolas was only 5.
Lynda’s death certificate lists her occupation as a secretary in the import/export industry, but a close friend of hers told the Sun Sentinel she was a stay-at-home mom.
As a single mother, Lynda managed to keep the family home until early 2017, when she sold it in a “short sale,” for less than what is owed, which is typically done to avoid foreclosure, court and property records show. She moved with her sons into a rental home, still in Parkland.
Years earlier, Lynda had filed a malpractice suit over her husband’s sudden death of heart failure and won a modest settlement that included $93,500 to purchase annuities for both boys.
There could also be life insurance policies, but the court record only reflects the 2010 Kia.
Sometime shortly after Lynda’s death, a social worker from Stoneman Douglas High called 911, saying she was at the hospital when Lynda died and now was concerned about Zachary, because he no longer appeared to be enrolled in school, according to a recording of the call obtained from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office by the Sun Sentinel.
The social worker said that the boy was 16, but court records show he was 17 at the time of his mother’s death.
The school employee, who is not identified, said Deschamps was at the hospital, too, and revealed that Lynda wanted Deschamps to take care of her sons when she died.
The social worker told police Deschamps had not appeared to have established legal guardianship and asked police to go to the home and check on Zachary. “We’re concerned about his welfare,” she said. “He needs to be in school.”
It’s unclear what the outcome was of the police investigation, but two days after the shooting police visited Deschamp’s home and found Zachary upset. A deputy wrote that Zachary “doesn’t understand why his brother would have done this.”
Nikolas did not live with Deschamps long, according to police records and interviews, but left her Lantana home to live with the friend’s family in Parkland.
Deschamps, in a separate 911 call Nov. 28, had told the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office that her 22-year-old son and Nikolas got in an altercation and she was afraid of Nikolas returning because he had bought a gun from Dick’s Sporting Goods “about a week and a half ago” and she feared he left to pick it up.
“Cause that’s all he wants is his gun,” she said. “And that’s all he cares about is his gun. And he bought tons of bullets.”
She warned that he had put a gun to the head of his brother in the past and his mother.
Said Deschamps: “It’s not the first time he put a gun to somebody’s head.”
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