For all intents and purposes, Nikolas Cruz, 19, grew up in a loving family. He was adopted as an infant, and his parents, Roger and Lynda Cruz, loved him very much. But he struggled during his later teens, especially after both his parents passed away. Nikolas’ cold and calculated rampage left 17 dead and as many as 50 people injured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. When word spread that a former student was the suspect, many students already suspected Nikolas before his name was ever released. Here’s what you need to know about Nikolas Cruz’s parents: his mother, Lynda Cruz, and his father, Roger Cruz.
1. His Parents, Roger and Lynda Cruz, Adopted Nikolas and His Brother Later in Life
Nikolas was adopted shortly after birth, but he wasn’t adopted alone. The Sun-Sentinel reported that Roger and Lynda adopted both Nikolas and his biological brother, Zachary, shortly after they moved from Long Island, New York to Broward County. Lynda was a stay-at-home mom. Roger worked in advertising. The couple was older when they adopted the brothers, but they had always wanted children. While Nikolas was often causing problems, his brother was quiet and seemed to stay out of trouble, family said.
Barbara Kumbatovic of Long Island, New York, is Lynda Cruz’s sister-in-law. Kumbatovic said about the adoptions: “I think it was just something she really wanted to do.”
She said Lynda was dedicated to her sons her entire life. “She was a lovely woman. She was a hard-working woman. She made a beautiful home for them. She put a lot of effort and time into their schooling, their recreation, whatever they needed. She was a good parent. And she went over and above, because she needed to compensate for being a single parent.”
2. His Father Died of a Heart Attack and His Mother Just Died Three Months from the Flu
Nikolas’ father, Roger Cruz, died when he was only six, the Sun-Sentinel and ABC 10 reported. A family member who wished to remain anonymous said that Roger died of a heart attack. After Roger died, Lynda raised the two boys on her own. An anonymous family friend told ABC 10: “[Lynda] brought them up by themselves. She did the best she could. When Nikolas was young, he needed extra attention. She knew in school he needed extra help.”
His mom, Lynda Cruz, just passed away a little over three months ago at the age of 68 from pneumonia. Lynda’s cousin, Kathie Blaine, clarified with ABC News that she died from flu complications. She was healthy until she checked into a clinic for the flu and then was rushed to the hospital. She later died of pneumonia. Her death was unexpected and it hit Nikolas hard. Kumbatovic thought her death might have sent him over the edge. She told the Washington Post: “Lynda was very close to them. She put a lot of time and effort into those boys, trying to give them a good life and upbringing. I don’t think it [the massacre] had anything to do with his upbringing. It could have been the loss of his mom.”
Malcolm and Christine Roxburgh, who were neighbors with the Cruz family for many years, told the Sun-Sentinel that the adoption was a wonderful idea. “It was a wonderful idea. Two older people to have two little boys to look after. They were just kind people.” However, she added that Nikolas sometimes got into trouble, so when Lynda asked Christine’s daughter to take the kids when her husband died, she said no.
3. He and His Brother Were Living With a Friend’s Family After His Mom Died
After his mom died, Nikolas and his brother stayed with friends in Lake Worth after their mom died. But Nikolas didn’t like the situation and asked a former classmate if he could move in with him and his family. They agreed, even though he had already been expelled from the school for disciplinary problems, after getting in a fight with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend, The Associated Press reported. They made him get a job at a local dollar store and said they didn’t see anything to suggest violence.
After the shooting, Nikolas fled the scene of the shooting, blending in among panicked students, and was arrested over an hour later at a nearby house. He legally owned the AR-15 that he used in the shooting; he bought it himself and passed a background check, CNN reported. The family he was living with made him keep the AR-15 in a locked gun cabinet, but he had a key, the family’s attorney Jim Lewis told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The family only ever saw him shooting pellet guns.
“The family is devastated, they didn’t see this coming. They took him in and it’s a classic case of no good deed goes unpunished,” Lewis said. “He was a little quirky and he was depressed about his mom’s death, but who wouldn’t be?”
4. A Family Member Said Lynda Had Been Having Some Trouble with Nicholas, But Nothing Major
Kumbatovic said that Lynda had been having some trouble with Nikolas before she died, the Sun-Sentinel reported, but they were just issues typical of teenagers.
“I know she had been having some issues with them, especially the older one. He was being a problem. I know he did have some issues and he may have been taking medication. [He] did have some kind of emotional or difficulties… [Lynda] kept a really close handle on both boys. They were not major issues, as far as I know, just things teenagers do like not coming home on time, maybe being disrespectful.”
Neighbors had said he would sometimes harass neighbors and get into trouble when he was growing up, and the police came multiple times. Shelby Speno, a neighbor, told the Sun-Sentinel that Nikolas had thrown eggs at their car once, stole neighbors’ mail, and had bitten a child.
5. Lynda Would Occasionally Ask the Police for Advice About Her Son
Helen Pasciolla, a former neighbor, said that Lynda would occasionally contact the police to get behavioral advice about Nicholas, The New York Times reported. “I think she wanted to scare them a little bit. Nikolas has behavioral problems, I think, but I never thought he would be violent.”
An anonymous family member told the Sun-Sentinel that Lynda had gotten Nikolas counseling from a young age for autism.
“She did her best getting him any help he needed.”