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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Rachel Sharp

Nikolas Cruz’s jailhouse calls reveal he laughed about leaving MAGA hat on mother’s grave


Parkland gunman Nikolas Cruz laughed about leaving a MAGA hat on the grave of his late adoptive mother, according to a jailhouse call made just months before the start of his sentencing trial.

In the video visit with Richard Moore, dated 8 March 2022, the 23-year-old mass murderer made light of his bizarre tribute to Lynda Cruz after her death.

Cruz told Mr Moore that he misses Lynda “and laughs at the fact that he left his Donald Trump ‘MAGA’ hat on her grave”, according to a summary of their conversation.

He also said that he believed his sentencing trial would take “an emotional toll” on him.

In a separate video call one month later on 13 April, Cruz then asked his former neighbour Patricia Westerlind to go to Lynda’s grave and remove the hat “since he knew his mother would [sic] like in [sic] there”.

Lynda died from pneumonia in November 2017 – just three months before he murdered 17 students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day 2018.

Footage that emerged in the aftermath of the massacre showed Cruz practicing shooting a gun while wearing the Donald Trump propaganda.

The chilling conversations about the hat are included in a summary of jailhouse video visits from 28 January to 18 April this year, obtained by Local10.

The documents reveal the killer’s conversations with the small handful of people who have been in contact with him as he awaits sentencing on 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.

His contacts include Mr Moore, who took Cruz’s brother Zachary under his wing in the aftermath of the massacre and has attended parts of the trial in support of Cruz. Mr Moore had never met Cruz or his brother prior to the mass shooting.

Zachary, who shares both the same biological mother as Cruz and was also adopted by Lynda and Roger Cruz as a baby, has stood by his brother over the last four years.

Nikolas Cruz is seen practicing shooting wearing a MAGA hat (CNN)

In another video visit with both Mr Moore and Zachary, Cruz urged his brother to visit Lynda’s grave on Valentine’s Day – the anniversary of his murderous rampage.

In that call, dated 28 January, Cruz spoke “about the fact that he thinks Zachary Cruz should go visit their step mother for Valentine’s Day,” the call summary reads.

Earlier this week, Lynda’s former best friend Finai Browd testified how a six-year-old Cruz wanted to shower his mother in Valentine’s Day gifts the year after his adoptive father Roger died.

In August 2004, Cruz watched his father die from a heart attack when he was just five years old.

The following Valentine’s Day, Ms Browd said that Cruz and Zachary came to her and her husband and said: “Daddy is not going to bring Mommy flowers, candy, and a card but we would like to.”

Ms Browd said that they took the boys to buy Valentine’s Day gifts for their mother.

The visit summaries also revealed details of communications between Cruz and the mother of one of the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre.

During the defence’s opening statement last week, Cruz’s attorney told the court that Cruz  had been in contact with Scarlett Lewis whose six-year-old son Jesse was one of 26 victims murdered in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on 14 December 2012.

“You will hear that he talks and has video visitations with a woman by the name of Scarlett Lewis whose six-year-old son, Jesse Lewis, was murdered in Sandy Hook,” his defence attorney said.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz is escorted into the courtroom on 30 August (AP)

“And you will hear through those conversations that together, her and Nick are trying to find a way to prevent this from ever happening again.”

Ms Lewis was recently awarded $45m in damages from far-right extremist and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for spreading lies that the massacre that killed her son was a “hoax” and “false flag” operation.

In a conversation between Ms Lewis and Cruz on 14 April, the mass murderer blamed the internet, him being sent to a special education school and being made to feel “stupid” for carrying out the attack.

According to the summary, Cruz  said he believed his “unlimited access to things on the Internet affected him”.

When asked what he thinks drove him from being suicidal to homicidal, Cruz said “that several of the topics was putting him in a special education school and feeling that he was stupid”.

In other conversations documented in the summary, Cruz often spoke about pornography and claimed he felt guilty for his actions.

It is not clear if the conversations will be presented in court during his sentencing trial.

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 the possibility of 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 adoptive parents.

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