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Parkland jury gets rare view of bloody school massacre site

by The Associated Press | August 5, 2022 at 12:00 a.m.
A memorial to the victims is seen outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., during the one-year anniversary of the school shooting, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. The three story building in the background is where the massacre happened. Jurors in the trial of Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz are expected to walk through the still blood-spattered rooms of the high school Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, in a visit to the three-story building where he murdered 14 students and three staff members four years ago. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald via AP, File)

By TERRY SPENCER

Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) -- Roses that had been brought to honor love on that Valentine's Day in 2018 lay withered, their dried and cracked petals scattered across classroom floors still smeared with the blood of victims gunned down by a former student more than four years earlier.

Bullet holes pocked walls and shards of glass from windows shattered by gunfire crunched eerily underfoot at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where shooter Nikolas Cruz murdered 14 students and three staff members. Nothing was unchanged, except for the removal of the victims' bodies and some personal items.

The 12 jurors and 10 alternates who will decide whether Cruz gets the death penalty or life in prison made a rare visit to the scene Thursday, tracing Cruz's steps through the three-story freshman building, known as "Building 12." After they left, a group of journalists was allowed in for a much quicker first public view.

The scene was deeply unsettling: Large pools of dried blood still stained classroom floors. A lock of dark hair rested on the floor where one of the victims' bodies once lay. A single black rubber shoe was in a hallway. Browned rose petals were strewn across a hallway where six died.

In classroom after classroom, open notebooks displayed uncompleted lesson plans: A blood-coated book called "Tell Them We Remember" sat atop a bullet-riddled desk in the classroom where teacher Ivy Schamis taught students about the Holocaust. Attached to a bulletin board in the room a sign read: "We will never forget."

In the classroom of English teacher Dara Hass, where the most students were shot, students had written papers about Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot by the Taliban for going to school and has since been a global advocate for educational access for women and girls.

One of the students wrote: "A bullet went straight to her head but not her brain." Another read, "We go to school every day of the week and we take it all for granted. We cry and complain without knowing how lucky we are to be able to learn."

The door of Room 1255, teacher Stacey Lippel's classroom was pushed open -- like others to signify that Cruz shot into it. Hanging on a wall inside was a sign reading, "No Bully Zone." The creative writing assignment for the day was written on the whiteboard: "How to write the perfect love letter."

And still gracing the wall of a second-floor hallway was a quote from James Dean: "Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today."

Prosecutors, who rested their case following the jury's tour, hope the visit will help prove that the former Stoneman Douglas student's actions were cold, calculated, heinous and cruel; created a great risk of death to many people and "interfered with a government function" -- all aggravating factors under Florida's capital punishment law.

Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of first-degree murder; the trial is only to determine if he is sentenced to death or life without parole.

Cruz's attorneys have argued that prosecutors have used evidence not just to prove their case, but to inflame the jurors' passions.

Print Headline: Parkland jury gets rare view of bloody school massacre site

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