FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A Girl Scout and avid reader. A trombone player who loved movies and basketball. A straight-A student who loved Irish dance and was looking forward to a trip to Ireland.

Jurors in the trial of Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz heard tearful statements Wednesday from three families whose children were among the 17 he murdered at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. It was the third straight day of such testimony — but it didn’t make it any easier to hear as once again jurors, spectators and even Cruz’s lawyers wiped away tears.

Fourteen families have now given statements, with the final three set for Thursday after the jury tours the three-story classroom building where the massacre took place.

Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in October to the murders; the trial, in its third week, is only to decide if he will be sentenced to death or life without parole.

Tony and Jennifer Montalto told the seven-man, five-woman jury and 10 alternates how their daughter Gina had saved a toddler from drowning when she was 10, and described the turtle figurine the child’s grateful mother gave her. It still decorates her now unused room. 

Gina, who was 14 when she died, had an infectious personality, they said, and was an avid reader.

“She once told me she wanted to live in a library,” her mother said. The children’s wing at the Parkland library is now named for her.

Her father, wearing the same suit he wore to their last father-daughter dance, said her death has driven a wedge between him and his wife and left her younger brother angry.

“Gina was our best girl and Anthony our best boy,’’ he said. “My son struggles to make sense of Gina’s death at her school.”

They used to play …read more



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