Ex-Army, Prison Guard Trainee to Be Sentenced for Executing 5 Women at Florida Bank

A sentencing trial begins Monday for the former prison guard trainee who admitted killing five women at a Florida bank in 2019.

Zephen Xaver, now 27,  pleaded guilty to five counts of murder last year in the deaths of Cynthia Watson, 65; Marisol Lopez, 55; Ana Pinon-Williams, 38; Debra Cook, 54; and Jessica Montague, 31, on January 23, 2019, as CrimeOnline reported.

Before the murders, he texted a girlfriend in another state that he was “dying today” and “taking a few people with me because I’ve always wanted to kill people so I am going to try it and see how it goes.” After the murders, apparently having changed his mind about “dying today,” he called 911 and admitted what he’d done.

After a two-hour standoff, officers moved in and took the murderer into custody.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the sentencing phase, and family members of his victims say they support that move, State Attorney Brian Haas said, according to WTVT. Florida no longer requires a unanimous decision in a death penalty trial, since lawmakers made a new rule in 2023. Eight jurors of 12 can now sentence a defendant to death.

Xaver’s defense attorneys are expected to rely on his mental health issues to persuade at least five jurors to vote against the death penalty.

Jury selection for the trial was conducted last month. The trial itself is expected to last several weeks.

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