State to seek death penalty in Sebring bank massacre case

Grand jury indicts Zephen Xaver on 5 counts of first-degree murder

By Steve Patrick - News4Jax digital managing editor
Highlands County Sheriff’s Office via CNN

Zephen Xaver

SEBRING, Fla. - A central Florida prosecutor says he plans to seek the death penalty for a man arrested in last month's execution-style shootings of five women at a Sebring bank.

State Attorney Brian Haas announced Friday that he had reached the "unquestionable conclusion" that he should seek the death penalty against 21-year-old Zephen Xaver.

Haas also said a grand jury in Highlands County, Florida, this week had indicted Xaver on five counts of first-degree murder. Xaver will be arraigned later this month.

Four employees and a customer -- all women -- were killed last month at the SunTrust Bank. Sebring police say the women were shot in an apparently random act of violence.

SWAT officers who entered the bank said they found the victims lying on the lobby's floor, all shot from behind.

Hass on Friday didn't offer any further details on what motivated the suspect.

Sebring's police chief has called it a "senseless crime." The gunman apparently had no plans to rob the bank and he had no known connection with anyone there.

One bank employee in a back break room who heard the shots was able to run out a door and contact law enforcement authorities said.

Zephen Xaver's father said he moved to Florida about a year ago. Xaver had been a correctional officer trainee, starting in November, but resigned two weeks before the bank massacre.

In December, he resigned as an online student at Stevens-Henager College in Utah.

A neighbor and family friend said the suspect's relatives are "just absolutely normal people." The suspect, she said, is "just very quiet."

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