Broward County, Fla., Public Defender Howard Finkelstein says in his 40 years as a public defender, he has never seen anyone receive as much mail as Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old accused of killing 17 people last month in Parkland, Fla.
As the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports, Cruz has been receiving scores of mail from fans and admirers across the country while he awaits trial on 17 counts of first-degree murder. Some of the letters offer friendship and encouragement. Others extend wishes for his soul—Finkelstein says those letters are read to Cruz, who is currently on suicide watch and cannot receive his mail.
Still others send provocative photos and love notes, declaring their attraction to and affection for the accused murderer.
Those have left Finkelstein rattled.
“We have not and will not read him the fan letters or share the photos of scantily clad teenage girls,” the public defender told the Sun Sentinel.
“The letters shake me up because they are written by regular, everyday teenage girls from across the nation,” he added. “That scares me. It’s perverted.”
Cruz has also received around $800 worth of donations to his commissary account.
Among the mail the Sun Sentinel got its hands on is a letter mailed from Texas, which reads: “I’m 18-years-old. I’m a senior in high school. When I saw your picture on the television, something attracted me to you.” The teenage girl complimented Cruz’s “beautiful” eyes and freckles, then described herself as white and skinny with big, brown eyes and 34C breasts.
The note was “tucked inside an envelope covered with hand-drawn hearts and happy faces,” the newspaper notes.
Another 18-year-old from New York wrote to Cruz telling him to keep his head up: “No one else is dealing w/ your demons, meaning maybe defeating them could be the beginning of your meaning, friend.”
It isn’t just teenagers reaching out to Cruz. An older woman from Chicago sent Cruz nine photos, including shots of her cleavage and her in a bikini eating a Popsicle, and a close-up shot of her backside as she bends over.
This is far from the first time a mass killer has sparked admiration from strangers. Ted Bundy may be among the most notorious examples of this, inspiring “Bundyphiles” during his trial and after his conviction. As Jess Commons at Refinery 29 writes, these women would “show up to the courtroom wearing their hair parted down the middle and hoop earrings, on the assumption that this style matched his victims.”
Bundy eventually married one of his admirers while still on trial, the article notes. Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, and brothers Lyle and Erik Menendez are other examples of this phenomenon, which is clinically known as hybristophilia: sexual arousal sparked over someone committing an offensive or violent act.
As the Sun Sentinel reports, Cruz’s fans have also created a support group for each other on Facebook called “Nikolas Cruz—the First Victim.” The group, which is now secret, recently had 300 members and featured a photo of Cruz wearing a baseball hat and glasses.
Hashtags on the page include #StopBullying, #OurBoy and #NikFam.
Florida prosecutors have indicated that they will be seeking the death penalty for Cruz.