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Neighbor: School Shooter Killed Toads After 1 Poisoned Dog

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — When one of Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz’s dogs died after eating a poisonous toad, a rampage against amphibians began, a former neighbor testified Wednesday. , adding that Cruz’s temper was so volatile that he should never have been allowed to possess a firearm or other weapons.

Paul Gold, who lived next door to the Cruz family when the future mass murderer was 10 to 12 years old, told the jury that he knew Cruz had psychological problems from their first meeting, when neighborhood children would visit his home to play with his daughter and stepson. While he was teaching them how to play pool, he shot the cue ball at the other balls on the counterattack and the loud noise “scared” Cruz.

“He went and sat on the sofa, covering his ears and moving up and down in a strange way. … He may have yelled a little bit,” said Gold, who moved in 2011, seven years before Cruz murdered 14 students and three staff members at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. He went on to describe numerous times he saw Cruz erupt in anger and then apologize after calming down.

Under intense cross-examination, prosecutor Jeff Marcus asked Gold if Cruz had a problem with loud noises when he fired 139 shots inside a classroom building. After Cruz’s attorneys vehemently objected, Marcus rephrased the question, asking if firing so many shots would have been loud.

“Absolutely,” Gold replied.

Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in October. The jury trial of seven men and five women will determine whether he is sentenced to death or life in prison without parole. The jury must be unanimous to impose a death sentence.

His public defenders are in their second week of presenting testimony about Cruz’s troubled life, from his birth to a hard-drinking, crack-addicted prostitute who gave him up for adoption to a childhood riddled with emotional and psychological problems that witnesses say never happened. They were properly. managed.

His defense strategy is aimed at countering the emotional, gruesome and graphic evidence and testimony presented by the prosecution over three weeks exposing the murders and how Cruz planned the attack.

Gold met Cruz after moving in with his then-fiancée Rocxanne Deschamps, who lived next door to Cruz; Cruz’s widowed mother, Lynda, who was a close friend of Deschamps; and Cruz’s younger half-brother, Zachary.

Gold, like previous witnesses, said Cruz was a “weird” kid who had a hard time making friends and was picked on by his brother, who had gotten bigger and stronger. He said Cruz obsessed over the themes, recalling that he once had a year-long obsession with penguins.

“That was all he was talking about,” Gold testified.

He recalled several occasions when Cruz erupted in violence. For example, Cruz got mad at him and started hitting a motorcycle trailer on his property with a golf club.

“It was strange how angry he got, how volatile. It was very disturbing to watch. It was not normal behavior for a child,” Gold said.

But after Cruz calmed down on that occasion and others, he would apologize profusely.

“It was as if someone else had done it. But then he would do it again,” Gold said.

He said Cruz was around his family’s dogs and when one died after eating a poisonous toad, Cruz “went on a killing spree” against the amphibians.

“He tried to kill every toad in the neighborhood,” Gold said.

He said it wasn’t until after the massacre that he learned Cruz had multiple firearms.

“He was not the type of person who should have had any kind of gun,” Gold said.

Gold, Deschamps and their family eventually moved on and then the couple split up and got into a nasty custody battle over their youngest child. Gold also developed a rift with the Cruz family after believing that Zachary stole a computer.

After Lynda Cruz died less than four months before the massacre, Cruz and her brother lived with Deschamps for about a month.

During his cross-examination, prosecutor Marcus attacked Gold’s credibility, accusing him of offering to hire Cruz an attorney to sue Deschamps before the shooting, which Gold denied.

Gold also denied that he wanted to make a movie about Cruz’s life. That prompted Marcus to play a recording of a call from jail in which Gold told Cruz that a movie producer he knows suggested that he make such a movie. Cruz said he didn’t want that, but Marcus accused Gold of trying to take advantage of his relationship with the killer.

“Any exploitation of this would be terrible,” Gold replied.

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AP reporter Freida Frisaro in Fort Lauderdale contributed to this report.

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