SEBRING, Fla. (WFLA) — Monday marks four years since a gunman walked into the Suntrust Bank in Sebring and shot five women to death.
Four years after the tragedy, the Suntrust Bank building is gone and a memorial now sits at the site in memory of the five women who lost their lives.
“It hurts,” said Jermaine Montague, who lost his wife Jessica in the shooting. “We lost these people and there’s nothing that we can do about it, but I hope that people don’t forget about them.”
It’s a day Jermaine Montague will never forget. His wife Jessica was working at the bank.
It was his birthday, and he planned to meet Jessica for lunch with their 2-year-old daughter. That lunch never happened.
“She gets in the mirror when she’s brushing her hair and she’s like ‘oh my gosh I look like mommy,’ and that’s like a constant thing,” Jermaine Montague said about his daughter who will soon turn 7. “She understands to a sense, but she just doesn’t understand that mommy won’t ever be coming home, you know.”
On Jan. 23, 2019, 21-year-old Zephen Xaver walked into the bank and shot and killed five women.
Marisol Lopez, Ana Pinon-Williams, Jessica Montague and Debra Cook worked at the bank, Cynthia Watson was a customer.
“I was a little emotional this morning, and just thinking about it yesterday, I was with my nieces, which were her daughters,” Blanca Pinon said about her sister Ana, who died in the shooting. “We were just talking about the fact that it’s been four years already and it’s kind of unbelievable.”
Blanca said she’s leaned on her faith to help with the grief.
“We’re always going to grieve her and we miss her,” she said.
State attorneys are seeking the death penalty in the case, however, Xaver has yet to face a jury.
The trial that was scheduled three years after the shooting was delayed due to staffing issues and a “personal medical issue.”
A pre-trial conference is scheduled for Feb. 5. In mid-December 2022, the court gave Xaver an opportunity to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. His attorney has until Feb. 1, 2023, to submit that defense.
The State Attorney’s Office opposed the prior continuance. At the upcoming hearing, the SAO will once again request that the case be scheduled for trial, according to Jacob Orr,
Chief Assistant State Attorney with the 10th Judicial Circuit.
As the accused gunman awaits trial, the families of the victims are left waiting for justice.
“Probably about the first year and a half, I let it bother me and I let it keep me up at night,” said Jermaine Montague. “The bank had cameras, they have it on camera, so there’s all of this evidence and the case is still in the same position that it was four years ago.”
“I’m just believing that this will be the year that will be able to finally put that behind us and get some closure,” said Blanca Pinon.