Parkland sentencing hearing: US Navy flight officer was serving on coast of Iran when she lost her father-in-law

Lt. Ines Maria Hixon said the U.S. Navy deployed her on a U.S. Aircraft carrier off the coast of Iran. The day her father-in-law Christopher Hixon died while trying to stop the Parkland school shooter, she said she was flying a military plane and didn’t get to check her e-mail.

On Feb. 15, 2018, after Nikolas Cruz had killed the school’s athletic director and 16 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Ines Maria Hixon was finally able to read an email from her husband, U.S. Marine Thomas Hixon, saying his father didn’t make it and he was allowed to leave his deployment to fly home.

“As I stood and stared at the coast of Iran and defended everyone in this country through my service, I thought I was the one in danger, but it was my family, being slain back home,” the U.S. Navy Naval flight officer and instructor at the University of South Florida said in court.

She told her side of the Hixon family story on Tuesday during the first day of Nikolas Cruz’s sentencing hearing. She said at first she had wrongly assumed that a driver had killed her father-in-law and collapsed when she learned about the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“As a service member, I took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” she said. “And to the defendant, that’s exactly what I view you as, a domestic terrorist, and everyone that does these heinous acts like you.”

Debra Hixon, right, kisses her daughter-in-law, Ines Maria Hixon, after she gave a victim impact statement in the sentencing hearing for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP, Pool) (Amy Beth Bennett/)

Christopher Hixon, 49, a 27-year U.S. Navy veteran, with five years active and 22 in reserve, had served in Desert Storm and Desert Shield. He was unarmed but while others were hiding he opened the west doors of the 1200 building and ran toward Cruz who was armed with an AR-15-style rifle.

“He was a courageous, loving, and wonderful man, and I never got the chance to tell him that,” Ines Maria Hixon said.

Christopher Hixon was MSD’s wrestling coach, a school monitor, and a beloved mentor to many. Ines Maria Hixon held Thomas Hixon’s hand when she told Cruz, “I wish no peace for you. I wish nothing but pain and I hope that with every breath you take, you remember that that’s a breath you stole.”

Christopher Hixon’s widow Debra Hixon, a Broward County School Board member; Thomas Hixon, and his sister Natalie Hixon also spoke during the hearing.

Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said the hearing is scheduled to continue on Wednesday. A divided jury resulted in a sentence recommendation of life in prison without the possibility of parole.


Watch Ines Maria Hixon’s complete statement (7 min.)

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