“Soon she wants to go on to become a professional soccer player. She would get her law degree, and maybe she would be one of the most successful business negotiation lawyers the world would see,” said Ilan Alhadeff in a Broward County courtroom on Tuesday, testifying in. the death penalty trial of his daughter’s killer.
“She was supposed to get married, and I was going to my father-daughter dance,” he said, his voice breaking. “She would have a beautiful family, four kids, living in a gorgeous house – a beach house on the side.
“All those plans came to an end with Alyssa’s murder,” he said.
The families of the 17 people killed in the Parkland school shooting continue to take the stand Tuesday, offering victim impact statements to show the toll the murders took as a jury decides whether to sentence the shooter to death.
To recommend a death sentence, jurors must be unanimous. If they do, the judge could follow the recommendation or sentence Cruz to life.
To make their decision, jurors will hear prosecutors and defense attorneys argue aggravating factors and mitigating circumstances — reasons why Cruz should or shouldn’t be executed. Victim impact statements add another layer, giving the victims’ families and friends their day in court, although the judge told the jury the statements are not meant to be weighed as aggravating factors.
“We were a family unit of five always trying to fit into a world set for even numbers,” said Tom Hoyer, whose 15-year-old son Luke – the youngest of three – was killed. “Two, four, six-seat tables in a restaurant. Two, four, six-ticket packages to events. Things like that.”
But the Hoyers are no longer a family of five, and “the world will never feel right, now that we are a family of four,” Hoyer said.
“When Lúcás died something went missing in me,” he said. “And I will not, get more than that feeling.”
‘I’ll never get over him’
Testimony from the parents of the 14 slain students focused not only on who their children were, but who they will never be — an endless catalog of things left undone and unsaid.
Nicholas Dworet, the captain of the high school’s swim team, had just received a scholarship to the University of Indianapolis at the time he was killed, his mother, Annika Dworet, testified Tuesday. He wanted to study finance and move to Boston with his girlfriend.
“Nick had big goals – more than most of us dared to dream,” she said. Next to his bed, he taped a note that read, “I want to be a Swedish Olympian and go to Tokyo 2020 to compete for my country. I will give everything I have in my body and mind to achieve my goals. set.”
“Now,” said Annika Dworet, “we will never know if he would have achieved his goal of going to the Olympics.”
Jennifer Guttenberg, the mother of 14-year-old Jaime, told the court that it is extremely difficult to watch her daughter’s friends and classmates grow up and achieve things that Jaime will never do.
Family gatherings and holidays are also difficult, with one less seat at the table and without Jaime to “keep everyone up and laughing.”
“There is unity, but there is no celebration,” Guttenberg said. “There is a deafening silence among everyone, because they don’t want to bring up Jaime’s name to cause pain, but they don’t want to forget her, either.”
“I won’t get over it. I won’t get over it,” she said Monday. “My life will never be the same.”
‘Our lives are broken’
Cruz had no visible reaction Monday to any of the victim impact statements, although one of his defense attorneys was seen wiping away a tear, as were at least two members of the jury.
“It’s been four years and four months since he was taken from us, his friends and his family,” Patricia Oliver said of her son, who was 17 when he was killed. “We miss him more than words can say and love him very much,” she said, adding, “Our lives are broken and changed forever.”
Andrea Ghersi, Joaquin’s sister, said her 6-foot-1 baby brother was “energetic, lively, loud, confident, strong, empathetic, thoughtful, intelligent, passionate, outgoing, fun, loving, competitive, rebellious, funny , faithful and always. He spoke when he felt that it was just something.”
Victoria Gonzalez also took the stand Tuesday. The day of the shooting, she was Joaquin’s girlfriend, Gonzalez told the court, but they already referred to each other as “always soulmates,” and she described him as “magic personified, love personified.” His name, she said, is “etched into the depths of my soul.”
Kelly Petty, mother of victim Alaina Petty, described the late 14-year-old as “a very loving person.”
“She loved her friends, she loved her family and, most importantly, she loved God,” Kelly Petty said of her daughter. “I’m heartbroken that I won’t be able to see her as the wonderful young woman she was.”
Alain’s sister, Meghan, expressed that sentiment to the court, “I loved seeing her grow up. She was a blessing to the world.”
CNN’s Carlos Suarez and Sara Weisfeldt contributed to this report.