On Friday, Zephen Xaver, a 25-year-old Florida man, entered a guilty plea to five counts of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of five women at a small-town bank branch in Sebring, Florida.
Xaver had previously pleaded not guilty, but now faces either life in prison or a death sentence during the penalty phase, which is set to begin in January 2024.
Xaver admitted to shooting four employees of the SunTrust Bank branch and one customer. All five female victims were ordered to lie on the floor and then were shot one by one.
Investigators said that robbery did not appear to be a motive and that Xaver had no connection to the victims. After a two-hour standoff, Xaver finally surrendered and was taken into custody.
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.
Prior to the shootings, Xaver trained for about two months to be a correctional officer at the nearby Avon Park Correctional Institution. He resigned two weeks before the bank killings.
There were troubling signs that Xaver was fascinated with guns and killing people.
A former girlfriend said after the killings that Xaver described having dreams while still in high school of hurting other students. School officials in Bremen, Indiana, contacted police in 2014 after Xaver reported the dream and his mother agreed to take him to a behavioral health center, according to police records. In 2017, police in Michigan released information about an incident in which he was messaging a girl in that state about “possibly thinking of suicide by cop and taking hostages.”