PARKLAND, Fla. — Sometime after 1:30 a.m. in a hotel conference room, the law enforcement officer’s eyes — even before his words — told Tom and Gena Hoyer that their youngest child was gone, killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
They remember so little about the ride home. Almost as soon as they entered their Parkland house, Ms. Hoyer walked upstairs into Luke’s second-floor room, untouched since the morning hours when he had been getting ready for school. She sat on the edge of his unmade bed next to the night stand where he had left his prescription glasses. She was in Luke’s room at this hour because she believed that if she did not do this task right now, she might never.
Two thoughts entered her mind. One was clear but painful to contemplate: How could their family go on without Luke? The other was much less formed and so much harder to answer: What now? That question would crystallize over the months and years into something else: What does justice mean?
the sentencing trial last week, the lead prosecutor, Michael J. Satz, described the violence that was unleashed upon the high school, naming the victims one by one and the number of times each had been shot. Videos taken inside classrooms were shown to jurors, and though the audience could not see the video images, everyone in the courtroom could hear the audio of booming gunfire, screams and pleas for help.
trial is only for sentencing, it is expected to stretch over several months. Defense lawyers will lay out any mitigating factors, like a troubled childhood and mental health issues, that might make the case for sending the gunman to prison for life rather than executing him. A death-sentence recommendation from the jury must be unanimous. If the gunman is sentenced to death, he would join more than 300 inmates on death row in Florida.
“Like the other families, we have had to deal with so much grief for so long,” Ms. Hoyer said. Referring to the couple’s daughter and surviving son, she said, “What we want is to make sure Abby and Jake are OK and we are being good parents to them. I feel like our future needs to be focused on them and their lives, while always remembering and loving our Luke. I have to believe he would want that, too.”
One of her greatest struggles, she said, has been finding a way to balance “seeing Luke to the finish line” with a trial that inevitably brings the harrowing details of her darkest day hurtling back. At times, the pain feels physically unbearable, burrowing in her stomach.
She sometimes finds relief in the quiet of Luke’s room, sitting on his bed as she had on that first night. There is something comforting about the space, which is nearly preserved, full of remembrance photos and plaques and jerseys, his old books and his backpack, which now has an evidence tag. There is a card from a mother whose son was killed in the Virginia Tech shooting 15 years ago.