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Parkland Shooter Has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Psychologist Testifies

Attorneys for Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz began building their argument Monday that his birth mother’s alcohol abuse left him with severe behavioral problems that eventually led to his 2018 murder of 17 people at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Associated Press reports. Paul Connor, a Seattle-area neuropsychologist, said medical records and testimony show that Brenda Woodard drank and used cocaine throughout much of her pregnancy before Cruz’s birth in 1998. Woodard, a Fort Lauderdale prostitute, gave up the baby immediately to his adoptive parents, Lynda and Roger Cruz. Woodard died last year. Connor, testifying by Zoom, told jurors that people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder show at a young age problems with motor skills, impulse control, socializing and paying attention, problems other testimony showed Cruz had.

Cruz’s preschool teachers testified he couldn’t run without falling or use utensils. He was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as a young child and teachers testified that he was extremely anxious and had trouble making friends. At five, tests showed Cruz had impairments in 10 intellectual categories including memory, reasoning, language and impulsivity, Connor said. Court records and earlier testimony showed he had frequent outbursts in class and at home. By middle school, he was making threats. Connor measured Cruz’s IQ at 83, which he said matches the slightly below average intelligence many people with fetal alcohol issues often score. Under cross-examination by prosecutor Mike Satz, Connor conceded he is not board certified in his field but said such certification is voluntary and only a state license is required to practice. He said that he almost always testifies on behalf of the defense, not prosecutors, in fetal alcohol cases.


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