The Parkland shooter is receiving piles of fan mail from deluded admirers

The Parkland shooter is receiving piles of fan mail from deluded admirers

When he walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, Nikolas Cruz became the teenager who took 17 innocent lives, injured 17 more and drastically affected the futures of hundreds of others. In the eyes of many people, he immediately became the embodiment of evil. Chillingly, among others, he has become an idol.

The 19-year-old now receives piles of fan mail from admirers based all over the United States and Europe. The messages come from across the world in every form - handwritten, typed, with doodled hearts, on college-ruled notepaper, in greeting cards - but they all share one important theme: they're from people who are either sympathetic towards the killer, or failing this, just outright adore him.

At the end of last month, the Broward County Public Defender's office, which represents Cruz, says between 100 and 200 pieces of mail have arrived at the county jail where Cruz is being held, with longtime Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein stating that he's never seen a defendant get so many letters. "Not even close," he said.

Perhaps the most disturbing ones are the letters from people that include salacious messages and scantily-clad, suggestively posed photos. CNN reported that from Chicago alone came nine photos including one in a skimpy bikini with a popsicle in her mouth and another with a shot of the woman's behind as she's bent over.

One woman writes: "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. Your eyes are beautiful and the freckles on your face make you so handsome... I’m really skinny and have 34C sized breasts.” Another woman from Texas claims: "I reserve the right to care about you, Nikolas!"

However, not all of the messages are sexual. Others who send post claim all they want to do is be pen pals with the 19-year-old, who has been "misrepresented in the media" and needs help "fighting demons." A card with a picture of a monkey hanging from a tree on the front reads "Hang in there", with the message on the envelope, written in pink or purple ink with a heart, saying: "No one else is dealing with your demons, meaning maybe defeating them could be the beginning of your meaning, friend."

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Another letter from Germany comes from a 20-year-old who claims to want to be Cruz's friend and tells him: "I feel sorry for you, as the media represents you without acknowledging what you've been through in the past years. Sometimes we don't have control over what happens to us, but we always have absolute control over how we react to it. If you are looking for someone to write with, no matter what topic, I'm here."

The teenager, who is currently on suicide watch, has not been able to read his mail and Finkelstein - who has been pushing for a plea deal since the shooting - has said that it is unknown whether he will eventually get the chance to read it. However, the disturbing mail is only where the fandom for the shooter starts.

In fact, in the wake of the high school tragedy, a small number of bizarre fan groups emerged online, full of dedicated supporters professing their admiration for him, proclaiming that he is innocent of the crime and allegedly posting hashtags like #JusticeForNik, #NikolasNeedsOurHelp and #ProtectNikolas (although it is strongly suspected that bots are responsible for many of these posts).

In addition, one fan has allegedly even started selling Nikolas Cruz merchandise. Reportedly, people online can buy "Justice For Nik" bracelets  and "Cruz Army" stickers for $2 each that both say "Fighting For Trust and Justice" on them."The truth is out there!" one of the bracelets reads. "Our support system is strong and our NikFam is growing stronger! All proceeds will go directly to Nikolas Cruz commissary funds. Thank you for your support!! Please help spread the word so we can get our sweet boy the help he deserves!"

So, where does the admiration for the school shooter come from? Surprisingly, it's not uncommon for individuals to begin to admire mass murderers and other criminals, hence the dating websites such as MeetaPrisoner.com, InmatesforYou.com and GayPrisoners.net. Mass murderer Charles Manson was engaged to be married to his pen pal, Afton-Elaine Burton, but called off the wedding after discovering that she was secretly ordering a glass coffin for him intended, with a view to charging spectators after his death.

It has been speculated by experts that some people are motivated to write because they want to find out more about a particular crime or to gain a personal insight into the inmate’s mind and personality, while it is said that other people may fashion messages simply because they are lonely and get a kick out of receiving a reply from a household name.

Whatever the reason behind this behaviour, it seemed clear that many of the people writing to Cruz are deeply disturbed. With the 19-year-old charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the first degree and potentially facing the death penalty, it remains to be seen whether his fandom will survive the test of time. The only certain thing is that the Parkland shooting is a tragedy that should have never happened.