NewsCovering Florida


Florida man pleads guilty to a fatal shooting of five women at a bank in 2019

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Posted at 3:47 PM, Mar 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-15 15:47:07-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — A Florida man has pleaded guilty to a fatal shooting of five women at a small-town bank branch in 2019.

25-year-old Zephen Xaver will face either life in prison or a death sentence during the penalty phase next year.

Court records show Xaver entered guilty pleas yesterday to five counts of first-degree murder.

A Highlands County judge has set the penalty portion of the case to begin on Jan 16, 2024.

Xaver admitted shooting four employees of a SunTrust Bank branch and one customer on Jan. 23, 2019.

Investigators say all five female victims were ordered to lie on the floor and then were shot one by one. They added the robbery did not appear to be a motive and that Xaver had no connection to the victims.

"We believe it was a random act," Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund said shortly after the slayings. "Aside from perhaps driving by and seeing it was a bank, we have no known evidence that he targeted this bank for any particular reason."

Investigators said Xaver called 911 from the bank and told a dispatcher what he had done, then refused to come out of the bank building when heavily-armed police arrived.

After a two-hour standoff, Xaver finally surrendered and was taken into custody where he has remained ever since.

The four SunTrust employees slain that day were Ana Piñon-Williams, Debra Cook, Marisol Lopez, and Jessica Montague.

The customer who died was Cynthia Watson. Police say one employee who was in a back break room escaped the carnage.