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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Rachel Sharp

Court hears girl accused gunman Nikolas Cruz of inappropriate touching years before Parkland


Nikolas Cruz was accused of “inappropriately touching” a young girl years before he murdered 17 in the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, according to shocking courtroom testimony.

Finai Browd, who was best friends with Cruz’s late adoptive mother Lynda Cruz, mentioned the disturbing detail in a pre-recorded video deposition played in Florida court on Monday.

Ms Browd recalled how she and Lynda became best friends when they both lived in New York in the 1980s. The friends then both moved to Florida with their husbands and deliberately lived near each other.

Around the same time that Lynda and her husband Roger adopted Nikolas and then his biological half-brother Zachary, Ms Browd said she and her husband also adopted two children.

Both of their families were very close and their children would spend a lot of time together, she said.

But, at one point, she said there was “an incident with Nikolas... inappropriate touching” of a young girl.

When questioned further about the incident under cross-examination played in court on Tuesday, Ms Browd said that Cruz had “tried to put his hand in [the girl’s] shirt and “tried to watch her shower”. The girl was around six or seven years old at the time.

Cruz’s adoptive mother Lynda instantly put a stop to it, Ms Browd said.

“Lynda had nipped it in the bud right away,” she said.

Ms Browd, who said she last saw Cruz in 2010 after falling out with Lynda, went on to testify about the behaviour she witnessed from Cruz as a child, saying that he was “aggressive” from a young age and had “tantrums” unlike anything she saw from other children.

“He would throw things. He would lay down and scream and cry, but not like a normal kid,” she said.

“Children would find it difficult to play with [Cruz] because he was aggressive,” she added.

Ms Browd said that Cruz’s younger brother Zachary had a lot of friends but they “didn’t want to be around” his older brother because of his aggressive tendencies.

Cruz also had trouble eating and communicating and wore diapers until he was five years old, she testified.

When Cruz threw tantrums, his mother gave him “whatever he wanted”.

“It had to be his way or no way,” she said.

Nikolas Cruz listens in court during his sentencing trial on 29 August (AP)

Ms Browd also revealed how Cruz watched his adoptive father Roger die in August 2004 – when he was just five years old.

She told the court that Lynda said Roger was in the family’s den with Nikolas and his younger brother Zachary while she was in the kitchen making lunch.

Suddenly, Nikolas – who was almost six at the time – ran past her crying.

When she asked her son if he was upset because his father had yelled at him, Cruz allegedly gave a harrowing response.

“As clear as sunshine he said, ‘No, Daddy is dead,’” said Ms Browd.

At that moment, she said Lynda told her she ran into the den and found her husband dead on the couch. He had suffered a heart attack.

After Roger’s death, Lynda was left to raise the two boys alone.

Then, on November 2017, Lynda died, leaving Cruz and Zachary parentless.

Just three months later, on 14 February 2018, Cruz travelled to Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida, armed with an AR-15.

The then-19-year-old stalked the corridors of the freshman building, murdering 17 students and staff members.

Last October, Cruz pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder over the Valentine’s Day killings.

Jurors will now decide whether to sentence him to life in prison without parole or to death.

Prosecutors spent three weeks detailing how Cruz murdered 17 students and staff members and wounded 17 more, with jurors hearing from grieving family members and touring the school site.

Now, Cruz’s defence is presenting its case, seeking to show that Cruz’s actions that day were the culmination of his life up to that point – from him being exposed to drugs and alcohol in the womb through his birth mother, to behavioural and psychological issues from an early age, and the deaths of both of his adopted parents.

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