SEBRING, Fla. — As expected, a judge ordered Sebring bank murder suspect Zephen Xaver be held without bond Monday.
Xaver was in court for a first appearance hearing after a grand jury formally indicted the 21-year old for the Jan. 23 shooting deaths of five people inside the SunTrust bank in Sebring.
The judge also informed Xaver that the state would be seeking the death penalty.
Xaver reacted with little emotion.
He was standing toward the back of a holding area during the hearing, appearing through closed-circuit TV. He was dressed in black and white stripes, unlike the other inmates who were making their first appearances dressed in orange jumpsuits.
“Mr. Xaver, an indictment is been brought against you,” said Judge Anthony Ritenour.
The indictment carries five charges of first-degree murder for taking the lives of four workers and a customer during the shooting.
The Sebring community is still reeling from the violence, as everyone seemingly knows someone who became a victim that day.
“I have two sons in law enforcement. One of them is the first responder the day it happened,” said Jim Peck. “The other one was there for the first appearance. Look what’s going on nationwide. We’ve got to do something,” he said.
Ritenour made sure Xaver was aware of the recent developments in the case, including the prosecution’s intention to seek the death penalty.
“Are you aware of these charges of what the state is intending to do?” asked the judge.
“Yes, your honor,” Xaver answered.
“I’m not really for the death penalty,” said Sebring resident Corrine Turner, “But I don’t really know what to do with somebody that’s done what he did.”
“As far as I’m concerned,” said Peck, “They could take him out of there in two weeks from now, whatever, and take care of it.”
There was no one in the courtroom on Xaver’s behalf, only his court-appointed public defender who was at his side in the holding area during the hearing.
Attorneys had agreed to waive the formality of reading the indictment against Xaver in open court, but given the gravity of the charges and the potential for capital punishment, the judge wanted to make sure Xaver understood what was going on.
“Any questions Mr. Xaver?” the judge asked.
“No, your honor,” answered Xaver.
There was still no word on what if any motive Xaver might have had for killing the five women inside that bank.
One worker was able to escape unharmed.
The judge ordered that Xaver continue to be held without bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 25.
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