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    Parkland school killer formally sentenced to life in prison

    FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA (AP) – Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz formally received a sentence of life without parole on Wednesday after families of his 17 slain victims spent two days berating him as evil, a coward, a monster and a sub-human who deserves a painful death.

    Cruz, shackled and in a red jail jumpsuit, showed no emotion as Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer pronounced one-by-one 34 consecutive life sentences – one each for the slain and the 17 he wounded during the February 14, 2018, massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in suburban Fort Lauderdale.

    The judge’s voice broke as she read the first sentences, but she gained strength and volume she moved down the list. Scherer had no other choice in sentencing; the jury in Cruz’s three-month penalty trial voted 9-3 on October 13 to sentence him to death, but Florida law requires unanimity for that sentence to be imposed.

    Scherer made no comments directed at Cruz beyond what was legally required. Instead, the judge commended the victims’ families and the wounded, calling them strong, graceful and patient.

    “I know you are going to be okay, because you have each other,” Scherer said. Some parents and other family members of the slain wept as she spoke. When she finished and Cruz was led from the courtroom, one father muttered “Good riddance”. They then gathered into groups and hugged each other.

    Cruz, 24 and a former Stoneman Douglas student, pleaded guilty last year to the massacre, where he stalked a three-storey classroom building for seven minutes, firing 140 shots with a semi-automatic rifle. He will be taken within days to the Florida prison system’s processing center near Miami before he is assigned to a maximum-security facility. Experts said he will likely be placed into protective custody, perhaps for years, before he is released into the prison’s general population.

    The sentencing came after the families and the wounded spent two days verbally thrashing Cruz while mourning their loved ones. Many wished him a painful demise and lamented that he could not be sentenced to death. Others said that after leaving court on Wednesday, they would try not to think of him again.

    Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz is escorted from the courtroom after his sentencing at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. PHOTO: AP
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