Two men charged with exploiting brother of Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz

Mike Donovan and Richard Moore took Zachary Cruz under their wing after his brother murdered 17 students and staff members in 2018

Rachel Sharp
Thursday 06 October 2022 17:20 BST
Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz describes shooting victims for giving him 'nasty look'

The two men who took Nikolas Cruz’s brother under their wing in the wake of the Parkland massacre have been arrested for allegedly exploiting him – just as the mass shooter’s sentencing trial is drawing to a close.

Mike Donovan and Richard Moore, both 45, were arrested at their home in Virginia on Wednesday and charged with exploiting a mentally incapacitated person and obtaining money by false pretences.

They were each released on $50,000 bond later that day.

The couple, who cofounded bond servicing company Nexus, took Zachary Cruz, 22, under their wing after his brother murdered 17 students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day 2018.

Zachary and Cruz, who shared the same biological mother Brenda Woodard and were adopted and raised together by Lynda and Roger Cruz, had been left orphaned in November 2017 when their adoptive mother died.

Her death meant the two sons were set to inherit around $428,000 each from her estate, according to court records.

Neither Mr Donovan nor Mr Moore had ever met the two brothers prior to the mass shooting but reached out to Zachary soon after, when he was arrested for trespassing on the massacre site.

Zachary, who turned 18 just one week after his brother carried out one of the deadliest mass shootings in US history, then moved from Florida to Virginia to live with the couple and their son.

Mr Donovan and Mr Moore are now accused of financially exploiting Zachary between 26 April 2019 and 20 April 2020, according to the indictment seen by the Sun-Sentinel.

Search warrants were executed at both their home and business as part of the investigation on Wednesday – coming at a time when the mass shooter’s sentencing trial is ongoing back in Broward County, Florida.

Nexus Vice President Timothy Shipe was also charged with exploitation and Santos Vicente Putul-Ax and Mr Donovan’s father Timothy Donovan have been charged with obstruction.

Mr Donovan denied exploiting Zachary and said that they had fallen foul to “corrupt cops”.

Richard Moore at the Broward County Courthouse on 18 August 2022 (AP)

“I want to point that out that first of all, I didn’t exploit Zach, and secondly, Zach isn’t mentally incapacitated,” he told the Sun-Sentinel.

He said that Zachary had spent his inheritance money already and was now living on a monthly stipend.

Mr Donovan accused the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office of corruption and slammed law enforcement for “continuing to try to break” the only surviving relative of Cruz.

“When you fight against corrupt cops, sometimes the corrupt cops snap back, and I guess that’s what happened today,” he said.

“Zach is this incredible young man and he really should be broken, and he’s not,” Donovan said. “It’s like, why are you continuing to try to break this guy? His brother is a madman, but Jesus Christ, he’s his own person. He doesn’t deserve this.”

He told the paper that the 22-year-old was not able to speak because he was out skateboarding.

Zacharay, who is 14 months younger than his 24-year-old murderer brother, has stood by Cruz ever since he carried out one of the deadliest school shootings in US history.

He hit headlines himself in the aftermath when he was given six months probation for trespassing at the school where his brother went on his murderous rampage.

Authorities said that Zachary visited the site of the massacre at least three times following the attack – despite warnings to stay away – and became fascinated with the idea that the fame from his brother’s crime would help to attract female attention.

He had long been expected to testify for his brother’s defence in his sentencing trial.

But, jurors didn’t hear from the killer’s sibling because Cruz’s legal team made the bombshell move to rest after calling less than half of the people on its witness list.

After the defence rested, Zachary released a statement saying that he had declined to testify because he did not want to face further harassment from law enforcement.

“Broward prosecutors partnered with a racist Virginia Sheriff and a corrupt prosecutor to attempt to arrest me, search my home, and subject me to a conservatorship,” he said.

Zachary Cruz, brother of Nikolas Cruz, appears in court in Fort Lauderdale in March 2018 on trespassing charges (AP)

Attorneys for Zachary and Mr Moore had filed a motion earlier in the trial asking the judge to ban prosecutors from asking them certain questions they deemed “not appropriate”. The judge denied the motion and Mr Moore was also not called to testify.

Despite not taking the stand, Zachary has cropped up repeatedly during his brother’s sentencing trial, where jurors have learned about the mass shooter’s early years in life.

Jurors have heard testimony that Zachary bullied his older brother and that Lynda struggled with both of her sons’ behaviour, calling the police to the family home dozens of times in the years before the massacre.

Prosecutors also said at one point in the trial that Zachary was starring in a reality show called “Being Zachary Cruz”.

Mr Moore’s name has also cropped up in the proceedings, with prosecutors saying that he has sent thousands of dollars of commissary to Cruz in prison “this year alone” and that he speaks regularly to the mass shooter in jailhouse phone calls.

While Zachary hasn’t been spotted in the courthouse, Mr Moore has attended several days of Cruz’s trial and was seen at the courthouse when the defence began presenting its case.

He previously said that he doesn’t approve of what Cruz did but believes “nobody should face this alone”.

Cruz pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in October 2021.

A jury will determine whether to sentence him to life in prison or to death.

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