Jury recommends death for man who killed 5 women at Sebring bank

Writer: Carolina Guzman
Published: Updated:

The jury is recommending the judge consider the death penalty for the man who executed five women in a Sebring bank.

Closing arguments began Wednesday morning in the case of 27-year-old Zephen Xaver, who shot and killed five women on Jan. 23, 2019, at SunTrust Bank in Sebring.

The jury began deliberating whether he should get life in prison or death just after noon, and they reached their decision just after 3 p.m.

The recommended sentence was considered for each of the five women killed employees Marisol Lopez, Ana Pinon-Williams, Jessica Montague, Debra Cook and customer Cynthia Watson.

A memorial for the Sebring SunTrust victims

Only eight of the 12 jurors needed to vote for the death penalty for that to be the penalty recommendation.

The jury voted 9-3 for the death penalty for each of the five counts of first-degree murder.

The judge will ultimately decide what penalty Xaver will receive.

On Friday, Xaver’s brain was the focal point of the penalty trial.

The defense said a tumor influenced his actions, while the prosecution disagreed.

The court continued to pick apart Xaver’s brain, literally. Focusing on his brain scans spanning over a decade.

On June 18, the jury heard emotional testimony diving into Xaver’s past with statements from his mother and his former stepfather.

Xaver’s mother, Misty Hendricks, detailed some bone-chilling information regarding the red flags from her son’s childhood.

Xaver in court in June of 2024. CREDIT: WINK News

After being asked if she was bothered when her son was expelled from school after telling his high school nurse he had a dream of shooting up the school, Hendricks claimed she was fine with it.

“[B]ecause you can’t help what you dream … and he dreamt about shooting apparently, and never in a million years did I think that it would ever come true,” Hendricks said.

Michael Mitchell lived with Zephen Xaver for three years and was married to his mother for one.

He told the jury through tears that he loved Xaver like his own son, and when asked whether he still cared for him he said, “I love him … I love him.”

Xaver sat quietly in court while hearing from teachers and family friends who recounted the well-behaved and shy boy they once knew.

However, as Mitchell testified virtually, Xaver showed signs of humanity. His hands fidgeted as his face was blank, and his stare remained locked on his former stepfather.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.