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The Florida shooting suspect appears poised to inherit an $800,000 trust fund from his dead adoptive parents

Michelle Mark
  • The suspect in last week's shooting at a Florida high school appears set to inherit what he has said is $US800,000 because both of his adoptive parents have died, the Miami Herald reported on Tuesday.
  • Nikolas Cruz, 19, told a family he was living with that he set to receive the money after turning 22. But a judge will determine whether he can access the money now and use it to hire a defence attorney, the Herald report says.
  • Cruz's court proceedings could become expensive if prosecutors pursue the death penalty, and the use of his inheritance to hire an attorney could let Broward County taxpayers off the hook.

Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old suspect in last week's shooting at a Florida high school, appears set to inherit what he has said is $US800,000.

Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine's Day.

Though Cruz filled out paperwork after his arrest saying he was too poor to afford a lawyer, his public defenders asked a judge on Tuesday to determine whether Cruz needs a public defender or whether he can afford a defence attorney, the Miami Herald reported.

Cruz told a family he was living with that he was barred from receiving the money until he turned 22, the Herald report says. But Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer could order Cruz to hire an attorney, leaving taxpayers off the hook for what could become an expensive case, especially if prosecutors seek the death penalty.

Cruz's public defenders could charge him for reimbursement whenever he "comes into money" - even if the case is over by that point - Scott Silverman, a retired Miami-Dade circuit judge, told the Herald.

Both of Cruz's adoptive parents have died: Lynda Cruz of respiratory illness late last year, and Roger Cruz of heart failure in 2004.

Lynda Cruz filed a medical malpractice suit against a doctor and a clinic over her husband's medical treatment before his death, the Herald reported.

She settled in 2008, and a court-appointed attorney recommended that the couple's two adoptive children, Nikolas and Zachary Cruz, receive $US175,000 to be kept in a trust fund until adulthood, according to the Herald.

Lynda Cruz also sold her Parkland home for $US575,000, Broward County property records obtained by the Herald showed.

The family Cruz stayed with after his mother's death also told media they knew about Cruz's potential $US800,000 inheritance.

Kimberly and James Snead told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel they recently saw paperwork that they believe shows Cruz was set to be financially comfortable.

"This kid was not hurting for money at any point," Jim Lewis, the Sneads' attorney, told the Herald. "Everyone knows about it. The question is if it's available now."