‘The system failed Zephen’ Guidance counselor takes stand in Sebring penalty phase

Reporter: Maddie Herron Writer: Elyssa Morataya
Published: Updated:

While most people see Zephen Xaver as a killer, his high school counselor sees him as a broken boy who was failed by a broken system.

With a blank stare ahead, Xaver sat motionless as the court reviewed his years of doctor visits, therapy and a grocery list of medications.

From recommendations from specialists to his own family’s pleas, Xaver clearly needed long-term help, not a pharmaceutical quick fix.

Xaver needed resources beyond what a school or primary doctor could give him.

Melissa Manges was Xaver’s high school counselor. She said Xaver’s dark thoughts made him feel scared and frustrated.

She said he didn’t refuse help; nobody would take him.

“There were plenty of ways that we reached out to try to find facilities to help Zephen long-term,” said Manges, “and there just weren’t any available that would either take him or just available in general, and I feel like it is kind of the same right now. I don’t feel like that system has changed much, and in my opinion, the system failed Zephen.”

Is being the victim of a failed system enough to save Zephen Xaver from the death penalty?

The jury has yet to decide, and the defense still has more witnesses to go.

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