Speaking at the sentencing trial of the shooter who massacred 14 students and three teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day in 2018, the father of a 14-year-old girl who was murdered gave unforgettably heartbreaking testimony in his victim impact statement.
Dr. Ilan Alhadeff spoke of his beloved oldest child Alyssa as the member of the audience wept.
“I wanted to tell this jury what happened to my family and this community,” he began. “I want to tell you what happened to my Alyssa.”
“On February 14, 2018, my fourteen-year-old daughter was right where she was supposed to be: in her high school English class. Four years later, she’s supposed to have been in her second year of college. Soon, she’d go on to be a professional soccer player; she’d get her law degree, and maybe become one of the most successful business negotiation lawyers the world would see,” he said.
“She was supposed to get married,” he continued, breaking down in tears. “I was going to have my father-daughter dance. She would have had a beautiful family, four kids, live in a gorgeous house, a beach house on the side. All those plans came to an end with Alyssa’s murder.”
He spoke of how his beloved daughter’s death affected their family: “Alyssa’s murder impacted so many people in so many ways; after Alyssa’s death, my father was never the same. He passed away a year later. My elderly mother lost her granddaughter and struggles to find happiness in her life. Then there’s my father-in-law, who always said Alyssa could do no wrong. They had a very special bond, one that you love to see between grandparents and grandchildren.”
“But this was broken only by Alyssa’s murder,” he said. “My mother-in-law, she also had a special bond with Alyssa. Not a day goes by that she doesn’t get emotional and go to tears when talking about Alyssa.”
“Alyssa was the captain of her soccer team and the center of all her friends,” he recalled. “She lifted them up; she helped them study; she was the shoulder to cry on and she was the ear to listen. No matter what her friends needed, she was there for them.”
Distraught, he said, “Most of all, she had this infectious laugh that now I only get to watch on TikTok videos.”
Pulling himself together again, he continued, “Then there are Alyssa’s brothers: one was too young to comprehend but asks to go to the cemetery to see his sister from time to time. This is not normal. For the older one, I feel like Alyssa was his best friend. He looked up to her in so many ways. The night of the tragedy he stayed up the whole night night calling me every hour asking me if we had found her yet, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him on the phone that his sister was murdered, so I had to wait until we got home and had to share this tragic news to him. It broke my heart to say this to him.”
“About a year or so later, he asked if he could switch rooms so he could be closer to her,” he recalled. “He holds back his sadness and anger about losing his sister but recently at the gravesite, he gave a speech and just came to tears. This is not normal for young boys growing up. They should not know of such sorrow, such loss, and tragedy.”
He then turned to his wife: “My wife, the mother of our children, lost her first-born daughter. She gives talks about how it was like someone ripping her heart and stabbing it. She fights every single day to keep Alyssa’s name alive, whether it’s with our foundation, with the school board, with the girls’ soccer club, she wears bracelets with Alyssa’s name on it. She occasionally sprays Alyssa’s perfume just to try and smell her. She even sleeps with Alyssa’s blankets.”
He finally spoke about himself: “Then there was me. My first-born daughter. My shining star, daddy’s girl, was taken from me. I get to watch my friends, my neighbors, colleagues spend time enjoying their daughters, enjoying all the normal milestones, taking in the normal joys and I only get to watch videos or go to the cemetery to see my daughter.”
“It was four years ago to everyone but to me it was yesterday,” he said emotionally.
In a heartbreaking statement, he said, “Alyssa will always be 14. And I will always be at that point in life with her.”
“All I know is that a piece of my heart was not just cut out, but it was ripped out of my damn chest. For four years I’ve watched so many struggle while the only option I’ve had is to keep it together for my family. Inside I burned like a damn inferno; it took me so long to feel empathy again . … Unfortunately I have to live my life with anger now and make it fuel my existence,” he admitted.
He concluded, “Missing our daughter every single day. No parent is supposed to have this grief. Without our daughter Alyssa, our lives have been changed forever.”