Family, neighbor of Florida high school shooting suspect say teen took dark turn after mom’s death

A relative of Nikolas Cruz, the man accused of killing 17 in Wednesday’s Florida school shooting, said she believes that Cruz’s mental health deteriorated last year after his adoptive mother died of pneumonia.

Linda and Roger Cruz, an older couple, adopted Nikolas when he was an infant. Linda’s sister-in-law, Barbara Kumbatovic, told The Washington Post that Roger died of a heart attack a few years earlier and, in November, Linda, 68, succumbed to pneumonia.

Family members explained that Cruz and his half-brother lost the only relatives they knew with their mother’s death.

“She was a lovely woman. She was a hard-working woman. She made a beautiful home for them. She put a lot of effort and time into their schooling, their recreation, whatever they needed,” Kumbatovic told The Post. “She was a good parent. And she went over and above because she needed to compensate for being a single parent.”

Before Linda’s death, Cruz was having issues at school, but Kumbatovic said her sister-in-law was dealing with it.

“I don’t think it had anything to do with his upbringing. It could have been the loss of his mom. I don’t know,” she speculated.

Paul Gold, who lived next door to the family in Parkland, claimed that Linda had Nikolas in therapy and got him a counselor — but all that ended when she died.

“At times he had so much anger and pain inside of him,” Gold told CBS News.

Following Linda’s death, the brothers moved in with friends in Lake Worth. Bouncing around homes, Cruz moved in with a friend and his friend’s parents but continued to battle depression, Jim Lewis, a lawyer representing the family who took in Cruz, told The Post.

CBS News reported that Cruz had moved in with the family a month-and-a-half before Wednesday’s mass shooting.

“They let him live here because he didn’t have a place to live,” Lewis told the network. “They can’t believe that someone who lived in their home that was so close to them for this relatively short period of time was capable of such a horrible, horrible act.”

[Featured Image: Nikolas Cruz/Broward County Sheriff’s Office]