TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The man accused of shooting and killing of five women at a bank in Sebring four years ago has yet to face trial due to a series of complications in court and questions surrounding his mental competency.
Zephen Xaver, now 25, stands accused of shooting the women—four employees and a customer— at a SunTrust Bank on Jan. 23, 2019.
According to the Associated Press, Xaver was a former corrections trainee who relocated to Florida from Indiana and worked at Avon Park Correctional Institution for less than two months— from Nov. 2, 2018 until Jan. 9, 2019, when he resigned. According to other reports, he had a history of mental health issues dating back to at least 2014. He even spent time in a behavioral health center in his home state.
After his release from the center, officers were warned to “be prepared to respond immediately if they received any calls,” about Xaver, according to police.
In 2017, Michigan State Police received a complaint that alleged Xaver was sending inappropriate messages to a girl in Michigan and told her he was “possibly thinking of suicide by cop and taking hostages.”
Before the shooting, the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office said Xaver purchased a 9mm handgun and ammo for the firearm.
Investigators said Xaver called 911 around 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 23, 2019 and told the dispatcher he shot five people and had a gun to his head.
A SWAT team responded and used a truck to ram through the doors and enter the bank. Xaver eventually surrendered and was taken into custody.
As far as punishment, state attorneys are seeking the death penalty. But on the fourth anniversary of the shooting, he has yet to face a jury.
The delay is due to multiple factors. Court records show that Xaver was not read his Miranda rights after the shooting. Rather than being read his rights, Xaver was asked why he chose to go to the bank and kill the women. He told the officer “voices told me to do it.” The officer in question “did not write a report or tell anyone he had spoken” with Xaver, according to the court document.
For four years, victims’ families have been waiting for Xaver’s day in court. The trial that was scheduled three years after the shooting was delayed due to a “personal medical issue.”
Now, flash forward one year later, the families are a week away from their next step in the process.
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. He has until Feb. 1, 2023 to submit that defense.
If Xaver pleads not guilty due to insanity, the judge will have to weigh whether or not the defense can stand. According to state statutes, if he does submit that plea, and is therefore acquitted, there’s a possibility that Xaver could “be involuntarily committed pursuant to such finding if the defendant has a mental illness and, because of the illness, is manifestly dangerous to himself or herself or others.”