Nikolas Cruz pleads guilty to 2018 Parkland school massacre

CORRECTION APTOPIX School Shooting Florida
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz sits at the defense table with defense attorney David Wheeler before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school. Photo credit Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP Pool

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Nikolas Cruz pleaded guilty Wednesday to murdering 17 people during a rampage at his former high school in Parkland, Florida, leaving a jury to decide whether he will be executed for one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.

Relatives of the victims who sat in the courtroom and watched the hearing via Zoom broke down in tears and held hands across families as Cruz entered his pleas and later apologized for his crimes.

“Today we saw a cold and calculating killer confess to the murder of my daughter Gina and 16 other innocent victims at their school,” said Tony Montalto. His daughter was 14 and sitting outside her classroom when Cruz shot her at close range numerous times. “His guilty pleas are the first step in the judicial process but there is no change for my family. Our bright, beautiful, and beloved daughter Gina is gone while her killer still enjoys the blessing of life in prison.”