The man who alledgedly shot and killed 17 people at his former high school last month is apparently admired by some individuals who one expert said may be facing their own mental health challenges.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel called the correspondences to Nikolas Cruz “fan mail” and “love letters” and noted that some of them include donations to a “commissary account” that allows qualified inmates to purchase of some goods available inside the prison such as snacks or cosmetics.
Teenage girls, women and even older men are writing to the Parkland school shooter and sending photographs—some suggestive—tucked inside cute greeting cards and attached to notebook paper with offers of friendship and encouragement. Groupies also are joining Facebook communities to talk about how to help the killer.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel obtained copies of some of the letters showing that Cruz, who had few friends in the outside world, is now being showered with attention.
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Cruz, who was adopted, had a difficult childhood, including witnessing his father die of a heart attack when he was 5 and the death of his mother months before the shooting. His mother reportedly said he had developmental disabilities, including autism, according to a separate Sentinel report.
As the Sentinel notes, this would not be the first time that people have been attracted to evil men, including Charles Manson, the cult leader and murderer, and Lyle and Erik Menendez, who were convicted of killing their parents in 1994 and were sentenced to life in prison. Both Menendez brothers married women while incarcerated.
Even serial rapist and murderer Ted Bundy had correspondences from people outside the prison where he was eventually executed in 1989.
One of the letters the Sentinel obtained was from a woman in Texas who sent it just six days after the February 14 attack that said she had the “right” to care about Cruz.
“The reverent note takes up all available space on the front and back of a kiddie-like greeting card showing a furry bunny holding binoculars looking out at the ocean,” the Sentinel reported. “The inside of the card says, ‘Out of sight, but never out of mind.’”
A Texas teen also wrote to Cruz, according to the Sentinel.
“Your eyes are beautiful, and the freckles on your face make you so handsome,” the girl wrote.
The alleged mass shooter even got a letter from a man who enclosed a photo of himself at the wheel of his 1992 Nissan convertible, the Sentinel reported.
“There’s piles of letters,” Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, whose office represents Cruz. “In my 40 years as public defender, I’ve never seen this many letters to a defendant. Everyone now and then gets a few, but nothing like this.”
Forensic psychiatrist and author Carole Lieberman has analyzed Cruz and also is the author of a book about women attracted to incarcerated killers titled, “Bad Boys: Why We Love Them, How to Live with Them and When to Leave Them,” the Sentinel report said.
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“Women who become pen pals and groupies of killers in prison are those who have had a dysfunctional relationship with their dad that has made them feel unloveable,” she said, adding that these women have very low self-esteem.
But while the public has a glimpse into the people who have been inspired to communicate with a man who allegedly killed 17 innocent people and wounded more than a dozen more, the recipient of these correspondences has not.
Cruz is on suicide watch and is not allowed to have any items, including mail.
But Finkelstein said in the Sentinel story that staff decided to read him some correspondences that were less about being a fan and more about expressing compassion for a lost soul.
“We read a few religious ones to him that extended wishes for his soul and to come to God,” Finkelstein said, adding that the other kinds of correspondences he finds troubling.
“The letters shake me up because they are written by regular, everyday teenage girls from across the nation,” he said. “That scares me. It’s perverted.”
Jail records show that Cruz requested a Bible, but the request was denied because of his suicide-watch status.