Nikolas Cruz, the young man who killed 17 people on Valentine’s Day and changed the Parkland, Florida, community forever, is receiving fan mail and love letters while behind bars.
According to CNN, there’s a pile of correspondence with messages postmarked from various places throughout the United States and Europe. The senders range from being grown women and men, to teenage girls, to a troop of Girl Scouts.
In addition to handwritten notes, Cruz has received greeting cards with cartoonish illustrations and sexually suggestive photos of women and teen girls in lingerie.
While the specific content of each piece of mail is different, they share a common thread of compassion and sympathy toward Cruz, who murdered more than a dozen people.
According to the Broward County Public Defender’s office, between 100 and 200 pieces of mail have landed at the county jail where Cruz remains in custody.
Howard Finkelstein, a longtime public defender for Broward County, said he’s never seen a defendant receive so many letters.
“Not even close,” he reportedly told CNN.
Several of Cruz’s admirers have even offered in their letters to send him money.
Dr. Robi Ludwig, a psychotherapist and commentator, said this bizarre fixation with him may be the result of people feeling sympathetic to how Cruz has been portrayed in the media as a troubled youth with a tumultuous past.
"There are some people who are more codependent in terms of mindset that think, 'Oh, this poor soul. I can fix him. I can be important in his life,'" Ludwig said.
Another possible explanation Ludwig pointed out is some people writing to Cruz could be desensitized to violence because of their own difficult lives.
“They're attracted to the danger. They like somebody who is dangerous. They grew up in violence. They're desensitized to it and, in some cases, it's vicariously thrilling,” Ludwig said.
While the mail is being kept as part of Cruz’s file, he doesn’t have access to it or the media. Unless his attorneys or relatives inform him, he wouldn’t even know the letters exist. Finkelstein claimed he’s only told Cruz about the contents of the religious letters.
Cruz is currently on suicide watch, which is why he can’t receive mail, but it’s unclear if he will eventually get to have the letters once he is off suicide watch.
Finkelstein allowed CNN to view the letters in an effort to showcase the “awfulness” of the case. He has been fighting for a plea deal in which Cruz would plead guilty in exchange for 34 consecutive life sentences. Apparently, he’s arguing that the plea would save the victims’ families from going through a long legal battle.
Messages in the letters include telling Cruz he is "beautiful," he is "loved," and he is "prayed for." Others encourage him to "hang in there" and "don't hurt yourself."
Aside from the sexy photos, some of the most disturbing messages are from people asking to become "friends," "writing buddies," and "pen pals" with Cruz, meaning they want to maintain long-term correspondence with him despite the fact that he is a mass murderer.
Interestingly, while Cruz is being shown empathy and love, the survivors of his shooting spree who are calling for gun control following the deaths of their friends are being harassed, threatened, bullied, and demonized by gun rights advocates and conservative politicians.
What kind of message are we sending to the world when a domestic terrorist is shown more kindness than traumatized, grieving kids?