• ‘I will seek the ultimate punishment': State attorney seeks death penalty for bank shooting suspect

    By: Martie Salt , James Tutten

    Updated:

    SEBRING, Fla. - A Highlands County grand jury indicted Zephen Xaver on Friday on five counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of five women in a Sebring SunTrust bank in January.

    The state attorney said he had no choice in this case but to seek the ultimate punishment and that the reality of what happened is just now settling in with the families.

    "In this case, after carefully analyzing the facts as I know them today, I was left with the unquestionable conclusion that I must seek the death penalty against the defendant," said Highlands County State Attorney Brian Haas.


    TRENDING NOW:


    Hass stood in unison with Sebring's police chief and other Highlands County law enforcement officials to establish this first step in what Haas said will be a long road to justice.

    “I will seek the ultimate punishment,” Haas said.

    The horror occurred Jan. 23 when for an unexplained reason, officers said Xaver walked into the SunTrust branch along U.S. 27 and killed the five women. 

    A sixth person was in a break room and ran out a side door. 

    Read: Timeline of events in Sebring shooting

    Police said robbery was not a motive and Xaver had no connection to anyone in the bank.  

    Haas would not reveal specifics of the crime scene Friday out of respect for the families.

    “The victims' families are going through a tough time and when this information is released, I want it to  be so they have information in advance,” Haas said.

    Investigators said Xaver called 911 that afternoon to say he had shot five people inside the SunTrust bank.

    According to an arrest report, the victims were shot execution-style and found lying on the ground.

    A sixth bank employee was sitting in a break room when the shooting started. The employee ran out a back door and called 911, according to The Associated Press.

    Xaver surrendered as law enforcement officers entered and found the bodies of five people, investigators said.

    A woman identifying herself as Xaver’s ex-girlfriend, Alex Gerlach, said he often thought about hurting people and has long been fascinated with death and guns, according to The Associated Press.

    Gerlach said she tried to warn people about Xaver's potential for harm, and that Xaver "always hated people and wanted everybody to die," according to the AP. 

    Records show Xaver is behind bars in Highlands County on no bond.

    As for answering the question of "why" and what was going through the mind of the accused shooter, we won't learn any answers for some time.

    The state attorney emphasized that it will be a long time before this case goes to trial although he did not indicate how long that might be.

    Xaver will be arraigned on the charges Feb. 25.

    DOWNLOAD: Free WFTV News & Weather Apps

    Not near a TV? Click here to watch WFTV newscasts live

    Watch Live: Doppler 9 HD

    Next Up: