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Suspect In Sebring Bank Slayings Could Face Death Penalty

Stephanie Colombini/WUSF, Highlands County Sheriff's Office

A prosecutor plans to seek the death penalty for a man charged with the fatal shootings of five women at a Sebring bank last month.

Brian Haas, the state attorney for the 10th Judicial Circuit, announced Friday that a Highlands County grand jury indicted Zephen Xaver, 21, with five counts of first-degree murder. Xaver is accused of shooting four employees and a customer in a SunTrust Bank in Sebring Jan. 23.

"It will ultimately be up to a jury and a judge to decide (Xaver's) fate, but as this case moves forward, I will seek the ultimate punishment," Haas said at a news conference, adding that "there was no hesitation" after he spoke to the victims' families.

Sebring Police officials say the women were shot in an apparently random act of violence, but Haas would not disclose any motive.

"As we go forward with this case, documents will become available that will shed some light onto that eventually, but at this point, we are not able to talk about anything he may have said," he said.

Haas also warned that it will take some time before Xaver goes on trial.

"It's very likely going to take a long time to get this to trial and that's a very frustratring thing for our victims, it's frustrating for our community, but this is not a situation where there's going to be closure for the criminal justice process anytime soon," he said.

Xaver is scheduled to be arraigned later this month.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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