Families set to face Parkland school shooter at hearing

Southeast

(NewsNation) — The man convicted of carrying out the 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead will be sentenced to life in prison. The verdict did not sit well with many families who lost loved ones in the massacre.

Shooter Nikolas Cruz will come face to face with family members of the shooting victims as they give their impact statements at the upcoming sentencing hearing.

Debbi Hixon lost her husband in the mass shooting. Chris Hixon, the high school’s athletic director at the time, died while trying to disarm the shooter and save his students.

For Debbi and many other families, it’s been difficult to listen to Cruz’s trial. She hopes that speaking in court will give her a sense of healing.

“It’s been excruciating to sit through all of the details of everything that happened that day, all of the things that happened leading up to that day, and things that could have changed the trajectory of what happened,” Hixon said. “My feeling coming into this week is that we finally are going to have the opportunity to say our piece, shut this chapter, and move on and try to find some kind of peace and some kind of beginning of grieving.”

She said regardless of Cruz’s sentence, after the hearing is finalized, this heart-wrenching chapter will close for her.

“I just want to say to him that I don’t wish anything for him. He will not exist for me after I finished what I have to say, on Tuesday, and we will move on. We will honor our loved ones with positive action with the light that they brought to the world and never ever think about the ugliness and darkness of what took them away,” Hixon said.

Hixon says her husband is often fondly remembered for his bravery and his beaming personality.

“Chris was one of those people that always made you feel like family, he gave you a sense of security. And he filled a room when he walked into the room. He was, I always say, an extraordinary man living an ordinary life,” Hixon said. “And he’s missed so much every day not just by our family, by the community. Everywhere I go, someone has a story to share about Chris and how he went out of his way to help them or make them feel better or sit with them when they just needed someone to listen to them.”

Hixon believes the light her husband brought to the community was stolen from the world, and that justice was not served in the case.

The jury could not unanimously agree to the death penalty for Cruz. Some members of the jury also found mitigating factors that prevented the punishment. In Florida, a unanimous vote is required on at least one count for the death penalty to be imposed.

“I don’t believe he got the justice that he deserved. There’s no way that anyone could come to the conclusion that any mitigating circumstances outweigh the heinous way that he murdered these people,” Hixon said. “He went back and killed my husband. My husband would have survived the initial shots. He came back and shot him a third time, point blank in the chest.”

For Hixon, her husband’s memory and light to the world will always stay with her.

“We will always honor him by continuing to shine that light,” she said.

Cruz’s sentence is expected to be formally handed down by Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer on Nov. 1. That’s when those impacted by Cruz’s actions will be given the opportunity to speak in court.

According to reports, the Parkland shooting is the deadliest mass shooting that has ever gone to trial in the United States. The suspect in the 2019 deadly shooting of 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, is awaiting trial.

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