Neighbor: School gunman was pure evil

Former neighbor of Parkland shooter Joelle Guarino says she knew Nikolas Cruz was going to be a murderer. She just didn't know how or when. CNN's Rosa Flores shares her story.

Posted: Mar 1, 2018 9:49 AM
Updated: Mar 1, 2018 9:51 AM

Joelle Guarino says she knew Nikolas Cruz was going to shoot up a school. She just didn't know when.

"I had no doubt he was going to do this," Guarino told CNN. "My husband and I both knew that we would eventually see him one day on the news, wearing an orange jumpsuit being charged with murder."

When the news broke that a gunman had terrorized Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Guarino said she knew it was Cruz, her former neighbor, a boy she saw grow up alongside her own children.

Guarino said her home was the house in the suburban neighborhood where all the kids on the street hung out, including Cruz. They played on her large grassy lawn and swam in the backyard pool.

Cruz, she said, never looked her in the eyes. Another neighbor described Cruz the same way: He liked wearing a hoodie and walked looking down, never speaking much.

"He was dealing with something dark," a neighbor who would only speak anonymously said. "I just didn't know what."

Guarino said the signs worried her early on. She remembers Cruz was a baby when he hit one of her sons repeatedly with a plastic toy. His mother, Lynda Cruz, she said, started hitting him and asking him not to hit others.

A few years later, Cruz locked himself in one of Guarino's rooms, she said, and destroyed a toy train set after he spilled soda and the kids told him it looked like he had urinated on himself.

Later, when Cruz and her children were all 10, she said Cruz threw a rock at her son and hit him in the eye.

Guarino said she started to notice odd things inside the Cruz home, too, before ending her friendship with Cruz's mother. Lynda Cruz kept the pantry and the refrigerator under lock and key, Guarino said. She remembers feeding Cruz in her home because he was hungry. And Cruz's room was filled with holes, she said, created out of anger when Cruz got mad and punched the walls.

Paul Gold, another longtime neighbor, also said Cruz's room was filled with holes. And he said Lynda Cruz kept the food locked up not because she was abusive, but because she was on a tight budget and sometimes ran out of food for the boys.

As Cruz got older, Guarino said, she started noticing Cruz killing toads on her lawn, by piercing the animals with spear-like objects; then he would dissect the animals. But it was when Cruz was in eighth grade that she said she saw an even darker side.

Guarino said Cruz was standing over her dog Max with a menacing expression while Max was convulsing and foaming at the mouth.

"His face was excited that it was happening -- with this wild satisfaction look," Guarino said. "As soon as he saw me his demeanor changed."

After that, Guarino asked her sons to keep their distance from Cruz, and to avoid making him angry. She was afraid of what Cruz was capable of doing.

From across the street, Guarino saw other worrying signs, such as Lynda Cruz calling law enforcement on her sons for domestic "disturbances" and then -- as law enforcement reports show -- telling police no violence was involved.

The descriptions of the police calls include things like "hitting door with pool equipment," "throwing items" and "physical altercation." Guarino said she remembers seeing deputies detaining Cruz in the back of a squad car, and then releasing him.

"Lynda always denied it. She would blame it on everyone else," Guarino said. "She would excuse him for everything."

Guarino noticed other odd things, like the text messages Cruz sent her son saying he "got 12 kills today" after playing paint ball, she said, and Cruz using his BB gun to shoot at squirrels, birds and other small animals.

Guarino said she wrestled for years with the question of what to do about Cruz, and she worried from a distance about the safety of her own children.

She said one day her son walked into her kitchen and showed her a Cruz Instagram post featuring a photo of an AR-15-style rifle, with a caption about how he couldn't wait to buy one when he turned 18. Soon after, there was another post, one in which Cruz said he wanted to "shoot up a school." Guarino said all these warning signs flashed before her eyes.

She said she called 911 and begged the responding officer to do something.

"There is nothing I can do," she said the deputy told her. "Until he does something there is nothing I can do."

The Broward County Sheriff's Office has not replied to CNN's request for comment on the call.

Guarino said she felt defeated. Scared. Afraid for her children. She told the deputy she wanted to stay anonymous, and she thought about moving away from the neighborhood. Later, she felt relieved when the Cruzes moved out in 2017. Lynda Cruz died later that year.

But Guarino's worst fear became a reality when 17 people were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman on Valentine's Day.

"I knew in my heart that he was going to do it," Guarino said.

Terre Haute
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 80°
Robinson
Scattered Clouds
78° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 80°
Indianapolis
Few Clouds
78° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 80°
Rockville
Clear
76° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 76°
Casey
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 80°
Brazil
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 80°
Marshall
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 80°
July Heat Continues
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 144013

Reported Deaths: 6951
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook909114581
Lake9752418
DuPage9083472
Kane7733271
Will6744320
Winnebago304695
McHenry206197
St. Clair1906136
Kankakee128565
Kendall96320
Madison94769
Rock Island94729
Champaign88012
Boone59521
DeKalb55818
Peoria49928
Sangamon43132
Jackson33219
Randolph2877
Stephenson2745
McLean26113
Ogle2614
Clinton23717
Macon23122
LaSalle21917
Union19119
Whiteside19115
Coles17017
Grundy1674
Iroquois1575
Warren1380
Tazewell1378
Knox1320
Cass1302
Morgan1283
Monroe12713
Williamson1204
Jefferson10717
McDonough10115
Lee972
Adams931
Henry881
Pulaski760
Marion660
Vermilion662
Perry541
Douglas520
Macoupin523
Unassigned500
Jasper467
Livingston452
Jo Daviess441
Montgomery441
Christian434
Jersey351
Ford331
Woodford332
Bureau292
Menard250
Fayette233
Alexander220
Franklin220
Mason220
Wabash220
Carroll212
Johnson200
Mercer200
Piatt200
Washington200
Hancock191
Crawford180
Moultrie180
Shelby181
Fulton150
Logan150
Clark140
Wayne141
Bond131
Massac130
Schuyler130
Cumberland120
Effingham121
Brown100
Edgar100
Greene90
Saline90
Henderson80
Marshall80
Lawrence70
De Witt60
Hamilton50
White50
Richland40
Stark30
Clay20
Edwards20
Gallatin20
Pike20
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Out of IL10
Pope10
Putnam10
Scott00

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 45952

Reported Deaths: 2650
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11387679
Lake4872240
Elkhart308543
Allen2677114
St. Joseph184965
Cass16369
Hamilton1484100
Hendricks136699
Johnson1235118
Porter68537
Madison64363
Tippecanoe6408
Clark62244
Bartholomew57844
Howard54356
LaPorte53925
Kosciusko4952
LaGrange4596
Jackson4553
Noble44728
Vanderburgh4306
Hancock42935
Delaware42648
Boone42242
Shelby41625
Marshall4123
Floyd36344
Morgan32031
Montgomery28720
Grant28526
Clinton2792
Dubois2606
White25810
Monroe25628
Decatur24632
Henry23515
Lawrence23124
Vigo2248
Harrison20822
Dearborn20422
Warrick20129
Greene18431
Miami1802
Jennings16911
Putnam1658
DeKalb1594
Scott1547
Daviess13916
Orange13323
Wayne1286
Franklin1248
Steuben1232
Perry1209
Ripley1127
Carroll1092
Jasper1092
Wabash1072
Fayette967
Newton9510
Whitley814
Randolph764
Starke733
Huntington702
Wells681
Jay670
Fulton661
Jefferson651
Washington641
Pulaski631
Knox620
Clay594
Rush573
Benton480
Adams451
Owen451
Gibson442
Sullivan441
Brown381
Blackford372
Posey350
Spencer311
Tipton301
Crawford290
Fountain292
Switzerland250
Martin220
Parke220
Ohio140
Warren141
Union130
Vermillion130
Pike80
Unassigned0194