Zachary Cruz, brother of the accused Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz, has been given permission by a Broward County judge to move to Virginia, but he must meet several stipulations.
"You need to just take this moment and appreciate what they're offering you," Broward County Judge Melinda Brown told Cruz. "Make wise choices."
"I'm very happy with the court's ruling," Cruz, dressed in a charcoal suit and plaid tie, told reporters after the hearing. "I'm looking forward to starting a new life there."
Cruz was placed on probation after pleading guilty to trespassing at the same high school where the Broward Sheriff’s Office says his brother shot and killed 17 people. He was arrested May 1 after accusations that he was violating that probation on April 28 for driving without a valid driver’s license in Palm Beach County.
The group Nexus Services is offering Cruz, who is currently homeless since his caretaker threw him out, one-year free stay in a home and a full-time job as a maintenance mechanic in Staunton, Virginia.
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Nexus Services describes itself in the court document as a “charitable bonding entity that specializes in reentry support and supervision for those in need of help rebuilding productive lives post-incarceration or post-treatment.”
The same group filed suit against the Broward Sheriff’s Office on behalf of Zachary Cruz earlier this month, claiming he was tortured in jail.
The director of one of the group’s entities is offering to serve as Cruz’s new caretaker and her personal condominium for him to stay in. She said she will provide him with weekly counseling and help him earn a high school diploma online. Her plan includes enrolling him in a technical or trade school after he completes the diploma.
Attorney Mark Lowry said the move to Virginia will give Cruz a chance to live a relatively normal life and escape the shadow of the Stoneman Douglas shooting.
"Mr. Cruz is not his brother. He is not charged with what his brother is charged with," Lowry said. "This gives him a chance to start over. A fresh start."
Prosecutor Sarahnell Murphy closely questioned Nexus officials at the hearing about the level of supervision Zachary Cruz would be under, how he would get around and what kind of mental health counseling would be available. The Nexus officials assured her they would keep close tabs on him and ensure he met all requirements of his probation, including electronic monitoring of his whereabouts.
Still, Murphy said she was concerned he was leaving Broward County's jurisdiction. Prosecutors have previously noted Zachary Cruz's own scrapes with law enforcement and said many "red flags" exist with him that were apparent with his brother after the shooting.
"I wish I could say I was without trepidation," Murphy said. Then she added. "The state of Florida wants nothing more than for Mr. Cruz to be successful."
Although the judge ruled Cruz can move he must still wear an ankle monitor and the judge warned him not to violate other conditions of his probation.
He's expected to leave Florida Saturday.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.