The Parkland gunman’s eighth grade teacher was so troubled by his disturbing schoolwork that she saved a copy for her records in case it was ever needed.
Those documents now provide crucial insight into the mind of a killer-in-the-making after Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day in 2018 — five years after he was an out-of-control student scribbling swastikas, curse words, racial slurs and homicidal stick figures shooting each other in the notebook he used for Carrie Yon’s language arts class at Westglades Middle School.
Yon kept a meticulous record of her interactions with Cruz, knowing from the time she met him that he was going to be a problem. At one point, hoping to encourage better behavior, she told Cruz she knew he could behave and was a good kid. His response was chilling.
“I’m a bad kid,” Cruz told her. “I want to kill!”
That was on Oct. 23, 2013 — less than five years before his shooting rampage in Parkland.
Yon, who testified over Zoom, said she knew Cruz was a special education student who’d been diagnosed with emotional behavior disorder and was assigned to a speech pathologist. But the things he said and wrote troubled her so deeply that she kept a record of their encounters and dozens of pages of his writings and drawings.
His behavior scared her, she told jurors. But when she complained to supervisors, she was told he deserved an education and had a right to be in class.
When she asked him about his worksheets one day, he cursed at her, calling her a “motherf—–.” Another day, he announced: “I hate security. I hope they die.” Two days later, he shouted the “f-word” in class so she called security to have him removed. Some days he would run screaming from her classroom.
Yon is far from the first witness to testify that she knew Cruz needed more help than he was getting. By pushing the narrative that Cruz needed help at every stage of his life, the defense has managed to demonstrate that the counseling and treatment Cruz was receiving from the time he was 3 years old was failing.
His defense attorneys are barred by court order from presenting that failure as a mitigating factor. But his mental health can be taken into account as well as his lengthy history of troubling behavior.
Yon described numerous episodes of “insubordinate” and inappropriate behavior, including Cruz hurling expletives at fellow students, mouthing off and yelling the “f word” at teachers. One day, when the class was outside for a fire drill, he ran into the street when he saw a car coming, then laughed when teachers yelled at him to get out of the road.
Cruz, 23, has confessed to killing 17 people and attempting to kill 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14, 2018.
He faces the death penalty for each of the 17 murders he committed. Defense lawyers are introducing testimony about Cruz and his mental health in a bid to convince jurors he was in a lifelong battle for control of his own behavior.
A jury’s unanimous vote is required to sentence Cruz to death; otherwise he will be sentenced to life in prison.
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