FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — Relatives of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre shook their heads or broke down in tears on Wednesday morning as gunman Nikolas Cruz pled guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder and then apologized to the victims in a short speech.

“I’m very sorry for what I did. And I have to live with it every day,” adding, “I can’t live with myself sometimes.” He also said he wished it was up to the survivors to determine whether he lived or died.

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Fred Guttenberg, father of slain 14-year-old Jaime Guttenberg, said his apology meant nothing.

“Irrelevant,” said Guttenberg in the courtroom hallway following the proceedings. “We’re just one step closer to justice.”

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Gena Hoyer, mother of 15-year-old victim Luke Hoyer, was wearing a picture of her son around her neck.

“We’re glad today has gone this way and we are hoping for accountability with the death penalty,” she said adding his apology was “useless.” She said his attorneys were “trying their best to keep a violent, evil person off death row.”

Luke Hoyer’s mother, Gena, wears a picture of her slain son during the change of plea hearing for the gunman on Oct. 20, 2021 (CBS4)

Luke was Tom and Gena Hoyer’s third child. She said Cruz “does not deserve life in prison, life in prison is a life. He deserves nothing more than the death penalty.”

Tom Hoyer also had strong words for gunman who killed his daughter.

“Just looking for justice here and justice for us, is we want him dead. We want him forgotten. I don’t ever want to hear this kid’s name again.” He added he though the courtroom apology to the families was “self-centered.”

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When they left, the Hoyers were going to visit their son Luke, at the cemetery.

Tony Montalto, the father of 14-year-old Gina Montalto, called the killer’s apology a “ridiculous statement.” He too wore a picture of his slain child.

Tony Montalto and his wife, parents of slain student Gina Montalto, talk to the media following the change of plea hearing for Parkland massacre gun Nikolas Cruz on Oct 20, 2021. (CBS4)

In response to the gunman’s statement, “If I were to get a second chance, I will do everything in my power to try to help others,” Montalto said, “If he wanted to do something for our families, he shouldn’t have killed our loved ones.”

Montalto said being in the same room as his daughter’s killer was the second most uncomfortable thing he’s ever had to do. “The first most uncomfortable thing was hugging our daughter’s lifeless body,” he recalled.

Montalto said while he understands the guilty pleas are the first step in the judicial process, he has a very specific idea of what justice means.

“As a society, we should want people who commit heinous acts, like mass shootings, to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We need to find a way to prevent people from wanting to copy these things. We need the media to help us in reducing the notierty these shooters get. We need to prevent them from being idols to others. We need to always remember the victims and who they were, the bright and vibrant people. Finally, we need all Americans to come together and help us stop school shootings. If you see something, say something. If you have a suspicion, you need to report it to someone. We need to be proactive and prevent other families from suffering the loss we have of our beautiful 14-year-old Gina Rose.”

Anthony Borges, a former Stoneman Douglas student who was shot five times and severely wounded, said after the hearing that he accepted Cruz’s apology, but noted that it was not up to him to decide the confessed murderer’s fate.

“He made a decision to shoot the school,” Borges said. “I am not God to make the decision to kill him or not. That’s not my decision. My decision is to be a better person and to change the world for every kid. I don’t want this to happen to anybody again. It hurts. It hurts. It really hurts. So, I am just going to keep going. That’s it.”

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Cruz faces a minimum of life in prison and maximum of the death penalty. Jury selection for the penalty phase of the trial is scheduled to begin January 4.

CBSMiami.com Team