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Jury Set To Decide Fate of Prison Guard Trainee Who Called 911 After Killing Five Women in a Bank

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A picture of the bank Zephen Xaver attacked
Source: Pinterest

Jury selection for Zephen Xaver’s case began in a Florida court on Monday, May 20, 2024. The jurors will determine the fate of Xaver, a 27-year-old former prison guard trainee. For context, in 2019, Xaver, 22 at the time, walked into a Florida bank and shot five women. Afterward, he called 911 to confess what he had done.

As stated earlier, the January 23, 2019, massacre at the SunTrust Bank, Southeast of Tampa, saw the lives of five women end abruptly. One of the victims, 65-year-old Cynthia Watson, was reportedly married for less than a month. Another victim, Marisol Lopez, was a 55-year-old bank teller coordinator and a mother of two.

The third victim, Ana Pinon-Williams, was 38 years old and a mother to seven adorable kids. Jessica Montague, a 31-year-old mother of one and stepmom of four, also lost her life in the tragic incident. Lastly, 54-year-old Debra Cook, who was a grandmother and a mother of two, also died during Xaver’s attack.

The sad and untimely death of the victims left their families grief-stricken and left their kids motherless. After numerous trial delays caused by the attorney’s illness and the pandemic, amongst other things, opening statements are expected in court by June.

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According to court documents, the jury has to decide on sentencing Xaver to life without parole or death. Notably, the former prison guard trainee pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree murder in a 2023 court hearing.

Hence, the goal of the jury trial, which will last for two months, is to determine his sentence. According to some of the victims’ families, Xaver’s lengthy trial makes them relive the pain they felt after hearing of the women’s deaths.

While discussing the lengthy trial, Debra Cook’s husband, Michael Cook, expressed frustration at the delays. Furthermore, he opined that he had avoided watching the case closely due to the years of postponement. “I have purposely not asked too many questions because I don’t want to get more frustrated and angry,” he said.

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Ahead of the sentencing trial, Michael said he hopes Xaver gets the death penalty. According to reports, the court had scheduled Xaver’s sentencing hearing twice. However, the court postponed the hearings for different reasons. 

According to reports, a new Florida law enacted in 2018 only needs the jury to vote 8-4 to pass a death sentence. However, Xaver’s attorney, Jane McNeill, has pleaded for leniency. McNeill argued against the proposed death sentence, claiming the former prison guard trainee has had a long history of mental health problems.

Regardless, prosecutors argue that he premeditated the horrific crime. Lead prosecutor Paul Wallace will have to convince the jury that Xaver deserves the death sentence. Zephen Xaver lived in Indiana before moving to Sebring in 2018.

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ALSO READ: “Say Goodbye to Your Son,” Texas Mom Sends Chilling Message to Ex-Husband Before Killing Him

According to police reports, he had mental health struggles as a kid. In 2016, Xaver joined the Army, only to be discharged seven months later. Despite his mental health problems, Florida hired Xaver as a guard trainee in 2018.

However, he quit two months later and committed the gruesome murders two weeks after quitting. On the day of the murders, Xaver reportedly texted his girlfriend, saying it was the best day of his life. He shared several other texts, proving that he had it all planned out.

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