Nikolas Cruz’s adoptive mother was “afraid” of her son and warned one of their neighbours not to fall for his “angelic ways”, according to dramatic courtroom testimony.
Paul Gold, a former neighbour of the Cruz family, testified in court on Wednesday that Lynda Cruz confided in him that she was “scared” of the future mass murderer.
“She told me she was scared of him,” he testified.
“She told me not to believe the nice appearance he had and angelic ways and that he would turn and do bad things. And she was a little afraid of him at some times.”
Jurors were shown photos of damage inside the family home, which Mr Gold said was caused by Cruz and his brother Zachary “punching the walls”.
The images show a smashed mirror on a bedroom door and damage on the wall of a bathroom.
Mr Gold testified that he often saw damage inside the family’s home.
When asked if he ever saw Cruz or Zachary causing the damage, he said he did see “them getting pretty crazy inside the house”.
Mr Gold recalled that Cruz could suddenly lose his “temper” and have “episodes”, saying that it was “almost like it was another person who had done it”.
Mr Gold said that the episodes of anger were “almost spontaneous or out of nowhere”.
“He would be very nice and pleasant to people and wanting to be nice to people and then another moment he would lose his temper and break things and seem out of his mind,” he said.
“Then when he calmed down you could see that he really was apologetic, almost like it was another person who had done it.”
He said it was clear that Cruz was then “truly sorry” after he lashed out.
“He appeared more shocked at himself that he had done it,” said Mr Gold.
In one incident, he said that Cruz took a golf club and smashed up a small motorcycle trailer. He then came over and was “profusely apologetic”, said Mr Gold.
Mr Gold lived next door to the Cruz family in Parkland from 2008 to 2011.
He told the court that he had moved into the home of his then-fiance Roxcanne Deschamps and lived there with Mr Gold’s daughter Isabella and Ms Deschamps’ son Rock Deschamps.
At the time, Cruz was living with his adoptive mother Lynda Cruz and his brother Zachary next door.
Mr Gold and Ms Deschamps moved out of the home in 2011 but stayed in contact with the Cruz family, with Cruz and Zachary sometimes going to visit.
But, Mr Gold said he later had a falling out with Lynda over an iPad that went missing – and which he believed Zachary had stolen.
When Lynda died, Mr Gold said he was no longer in a relationship with Ms Deschamps, with the couple going through a far from amicable split and custody battle for their younger son Tyler.
Cruz and Zachary initially moved in with Ms Deschamps but Cruz moved out of the home just one month later after the police were called to the home over an alleged fight with Ms Deschamps’ son.
Three months after Lynda died in November 2017, Cruz travelled to Marjory Stoneman armed with an AR-15 on Valentine’s Day 2018.
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.