Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, whose office represents Cruz, said he was concerned about Cruz’s growing notoriety.
“The letters shake me up because they are written by regular, everyday teenage girls from across the nation,” he said. “That scares me. It’s perverted.”
The Sun Sentinel showed a stack of hundreds of pages of photocopies of the letters Cruz has been sent.
“You’re in a tough spot, Nik, and that is something I know, because I’ve been there myself,” one letter writer wrote Cruz. “If you need something, I can mail to you … ask. If you need to talk … I’ll listen.”
On March 15, a person self-identified as an 18-year-old woman from Texas wrote: “When I saw your picture on the television, something attracted me to you.”
The letter was in an envelope decorated with hearts and happy faces, the Sentinel reported.
“Your eyes are beautiful and the freckles on your face make you so handsome.”
Another person purporting to be a woman sent Cruz nine suggestive photos, the newspaper reported.
Finkelstein told the Sentinel that the “piles of letters” to Cruz were unlike anything he has seen before.
“In my 40 years as public defender, I’ve never seen this many letters to a defendant,” he said. “Everyone now and then gets a few, but nothing like this.”
Some of the correspondence is also from men. Finkelstein told the newspaper that Cruz, who is on suicide watch, has not seen the letters. The Broward County Jail opens most inmate mail, the Sentinel reported; mail that is vulgar or deemed a security threat is returned to the sender.
“We read a few religious ones to him that extended wishes for his soul and to come to God, but we have not and will not read him the fan letters or share the photos of scantily-clad teenage girls,” Finkelstein told the newspaper.
The $800 in Cruz’s commissary account has apparently been sent, at least in part, by fans, Finkelstein said.
The Sentinel also reported on a secret Cruz fan page on Facebook, where members speak of their support and affection for him.
One woman recently solicited pictures to make a collage to send to Cruz.
“I want him to see how many people love and care for him and all the beautiful faces,” she wrote, according to the Sentinel.
Sarahnell Murphy, an assistant state attorney in Broward County, where Parkland is located, recently said in court that Cruz’s brother, Zachary, who recently pleaded no contest to trespassing charges after officials said he visited the scene of the Parkland shooting, had been overhead “discussing how popular his brother is now.”
The phenomenon of “serial-killer groupies” has long fascinated and horrified as people have exhibited similar attraction and warm behavior toward others accused of murder or convicted of the crime. That list includes notorious murder convicts Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy.
Prosecutors in Florida have said they plan to seek the death penalty for Cruz.