The roses brought out to honor love on that Valentine’s Day in 2018 lay wilted, their dried and cracked petals strewn across classroom floors still stained with the blood of victims shot to death by a former student more than four years ago. .
Bullet holes in the walls and glass shards in the windows shattered by gunshots crushed underfoot at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where shooter Nikolas Cruz killed 14 students and three staff members.
Nothing had been changed, except for the transfer of the bodies of the victims and some personal belongings.
Twelve jurors and 10 alternates who will decide Whether Cruz receives the death penalty or life in prison, he made a rare visit to the scene of the massacre Thursday, following Cruz through the three-story freshman building known as Building 12.
After they left, a group of journalists were allowed in for a much quicker first public viewing. The sight was deeply unsettling.
Large pools of dried blood still stained the classroom floors. A lock of dark hair rested on the floor where the body of one of the victims once lay. A single black rubber shoe stood in a hallway. Brown rose petals were strewn across a hallway where six people died, and Valentine’s Day gifts such as toy bears and cards lay where they had fallen in the chaos.
In classroom after classroom, open notebooks showed incomplete lessons. A blood-covered book called Tell Them We Remember sat on a bullet-riddled desk in the classroom where a teacher, Ivy Schamis, taught students about the Holocaust.
A sign attached to a bulletin board read: “We will never forget.” Two students died there.
In English teacher Dara Hass’s classroom, where most of the students were shot, there were essays on Malala YousafzaiPakistani teenager shot by the taliban for going to school, and who has since become a global advocate for access to education for women and girls.
The door to room 1255, teacher Stacey Lippel’s classroom, was pushed open, like others, to indicate that Cruz shot her. Hanging on an interior wall was a sign that read, “No Bullying Zone.” The creative writing assignment for the day was on the board: “How to write the perfect love letter.”
And still hanging on a second-floor hallway wall was a quote from James Dean: “Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.”
In the geography classroom of slain professor Scott Beigel, a laptop was still open on his desk. Student assignments comparing the principles of Christianity and Islam were kept, some graded, some not.
Prosecutors, who wrapped up their case after the jury tour, hope the visit will help prove Cruz’s actions were cold, calculated, heinous and cruel; he created a great risk of death for many people and “interfered with a function of the government,” all aggravating factors under Florida capital law.
Under Florida court rules, neither the judge nor the attorneys were allowed to speak to jurors, and jurors were not allowed to converse with each other, when they retraced Cruz’s path on February 14, 2018, while moved from floor to floor. floor, shooting down hallways and into classrooms.
Prior to the tour, jurors had already seen surveillance video of the shooting and photos of its aftermath.
The building has been sealed and the Broward County School District plans to demolish it when approved by prosecutors. For now, it is a judicial exhibition.
Cruz, now 23, pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of first-degree murder.
After jurors returned to the courtroom Thursday after the rare crime scene visit, the mothers of two victims testified that the massacre permanently overshadowed not only Valentine’s Day, but other family celebrations as well. important.
Helena Ramsay, 17, died on her father’s birthday. “That day will never be a celebration and it can never be the same for him,” said her mother, Anne Ramsay.
Hui Wang, whose 15-year-old son Peter was killed, said the shooting happened the day before the lunar new year. A planned celebration was canceled that year and every year since. “This day of unity became the day that hurts the most,” he said.