Accused Florida school gunman Nikolas Cruz stands to pocket a massive inheritance after his parents’ deaths, but if the courts have their way, he may never enjoy a dime.
Cruz’s adoptive mother Lynda Cruz, 68, died suddenly in November after a flu led to a bout of pneumonia, while adoptive father Roger died from a heart attack in 2004, leaving Lynda as Cruz and his younger brother’s Zachary’s only caregiver.
The teen reportedly told the family who took him in after his mother’s death that he stood to inherit $800,000 in a trust fund that he would be able to access at age 22. According to the Miami Herald, Cruz applied for a public defender after his Feb. 14 arrest, citing an inability to pay for an attorney. Since the revelation of the trust fund, however, the Broward County Public Defender’s Office turned to Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer to determine if he is eligible for publicly funded legal aid. Judge Scherer is reportedly likely to force him to hire his own lawyer for the case, which may be one of the most expensive in county history. That would probably cause most of any inheritance to fees in the case.
Even if Cruz were to retain his taxpayer-funded public defender, Florida law allows for the Public Defender’s Office to charge a defendant a fee after a case is finished.
“The public is still protected if he comes into money at some later time,” according to retired Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Scott Silverman, who has no involvement in the case. “The Public Defenders would be reimbursed the cost of its services.”
According to the New York Daily News and the Sun-Sentinel, Lynda Cruz’s former neighbor and friend Rocxanna Deschamps — who is also currently caring for Zachary Cruz, 18 — filed to take over the her estate the day after the Valentine’s Day massacre.
Cruz reportedly died without a will or a plan in place for her estate, which also includes funds from her late husband, who was an advertising executive, as well as settlement money from a malpractice suit over his treatment before he died, reported the Miami Herald.
Cruz reportedly had a violent relationship with his adoptive mother before her death.
According to the New York Post, Cruz was said to have abused the 68-year-old. More than 30 incident reports obtained by CNN stated that Cruz would throw anything he could find toward her. In one report, Cruz’s mother stated that she took away his Xbox after he refused to go to school, and in response, he threw “a chair, dog bowl and a drinking glass across the room.”
According to the reports, Cruz’s mother also once told Broward County Sheriff’s deputies that she was worried about her son, as he expressed interest in obtaining a gun and began “cutting his arms … to get attention.”