Zephen Xaver Faces Death Penalty for Sebring Bank Murders

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Written By Kanisha Laing

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A jury decided Wednesday that Zephen Xaver should get the death penalty for killing five women in a Florida bank five years ago. Xaver, a former prison guard trainee, showed no emotion as the jury voted 9-3 in favor of the death penalty for the murders at SunTrust Bank in Sebring, Florida. The final decision on his sentence rests with Circuit Judge Angela Cowden, who could still choose life in prison without parole. Xaver had already pleaded guilty to the murders last year.

The victims included Cynthia Watson, Marisol Lopez, Ana Pinon-Williams, Debra Cook, and Jessica Montague. Xaver ordered them to lie on the floor and then shot each in the head as they pleaded for their lives.

During the trial, prosecutors argued that Xaver deserved the death penalty because of the planned and brutal nature of the killings. They described him as cold and calculated. Defense attorneys claimed Xaver was mentally ill, suffering from psychotic episodes since childhood, and urged jurors to show him compassion by sparing his life.

Xaver had a troubled history, including prior concerns about violent thoughts and was discharged from the Army due to homicidal ideation. Despite these warning signs, he was not placed in long-term psychiatric care.

In response to the verdict, State Attorney Brian Haas emphasized the focus should be on the victims and their families, who have endured immense suffering since the tragic events of January 2019.

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