FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Lynda Cruz was in over her head, a now-retired psychologist testified Wednesday.
After her husband's untimely death in 2004, she was left to raise the two boys they adopted, Nikolas and Zachary. Both had difficulties, said former therapist Frederick Kravitz. But young Nikolas had especially difficult problems. "When Nikolas got frustrated or angry, he'd lash out," Kravitz said.
The child, who saw his father collapse from a fatal heart attack, was terrified of being left behind by his mother. "He was extremely fearful she would forget to pick him up at school and he would be stranded there," Kravitz said. "He had a pretty active, bad imagination."
Kravitz portrayed Lynda Cruz, who was in her 50s as the boys went from infancy through elementary school, as a woman who simply could not keep up with the demands of being a single mom to these two children.
The psychologist's testimony came on the third day of the defense case in the trial of Nikolas Cruz, 23, who is facing the death penalty for each of the 17 murders he committed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. Defense lawyers are hoping that jurors, after seeing how Cruz struggled with mental health issues throughout his life, will show mercy on him and sentence him to life in prison without parole rather than death.
But prosecutors are seizing on the same testimony to show not only that Cruz was receiving treatment, but also that he was suffering from problems that are not uncommon.
"I've worked with some other very damaged kids and certainly, to the best of my knowledge, none of them have ever acted out like" Cruz did in Parkland, Kravitz said.