Sebring bank shooting trial: Gunman tells police ‘I deserve to die for this’ in video played for jurors

On Wednesday morning, jurors watched the rest of a three-hour video interview between Lt. Jeff Reinhart and Zephen Xaver, that was recorded shortly after Xaver was arrested for shooting and killing five women at a Suntrust Bank in Sebring in 2019. 

Prosecutors began playing the video between Xaver and Lt. Jeff Reinhart on Tuesday afternoon. 

Xaver told Reinhart that he shot the women until he stopped hearing movement. He said he heard some of the victims choking, and then he called 911 and told the operator that he shot five people and had a gun against his head. 

He said the voices were saying, "Shoot, kill, do it, pull the [expletive] trigger."

Xaver said, as long as the gun was against his head, the voices stopped and calmed down. 

"I knew no matter what I say (sic), I did something horrible. I couldn’t put the gun down. I wanted to shoot myself. I wanted to die. I deserve to die," Xaver said in the recording. 

In the recording played for jurors on Wednesday morning, Xaver explained that he had a bullet in the chamber and the gun placed against his head, but he couldn’t pull the trigger. 

"I deserve to die for this," Xaver said. 

On the video, Xaver consents to having his mouth swabbed for DNA and his hands swabbed for gunshot residue. Reinhart also took several photos of Xaver. 

After the video was played, Reinhart discussed Xaver’s gun purchase. He said after choosing a firearm and filling out the required paperwork, Xaver went back to the store a few days later to pick up the gun. Reinhart said Xaver went back to the store a third time to pick up a bullet-proof vest. 

Jurors were shown video of Xaver in the gun shop just before they recessed for lunch. 

RELATED: Sebring bank shooting trial: Jurors hear from bank teller who escaped, crisis negotiation recording

On Tuesday, Benjamin Wysokowski told jurors that he was in the bank’s breakroom eating his lunch and watching YouTube videos on his phone when he heard two gunshots go off around 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 23, 2019. 

He said he ran out the backdoor and through the woods to a house where the woman inside helped him calm down and called 911. 

Wysokowski explained that he was in a state of panic and had to take a year and half off from work after the shooting. 

After hearing from several witnesses who said the bank doors were locked and people were lying on the floor when they arrived, jurors listened to a recording of a call between Xaver and a crisis negotiator with the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office. 

On the recording, Xaver explained to Chris Carr that voices told him to kill the women at the bank. 

After nearly an hour, Carr was able to get Xaver to put down his gun and walk toward law enforcement officers with his hands up. 

On Monday, after hearing prosecutor Bonde Johnson explain why the state of Florida wants Xaver to get the death penalty, jurors listened to the 911 call Xaver made from inside the SunTrust bank after he killed the five women. 

In the recording, he told 911 operator Kristin Johnson that he had wanted to die since he was nine years old and wanted to kill others since he was 11. He went on to say that he’s heard voices telling him to kill since he was 12-years-old. 

Who is Zephen Xaver? 

The man police say shot and killed five people in a Sebring, Florida SunTrust bank was described by a woman who knew him as "normal" and "well-mannered."

Sharon Spillane, a friend of Xaver’s parents, told FOX 13 in 2019 that she never in a million years saw this coming. 

"We’ve cooked together, I’ve been in their house, we’ve watched movies. They’re a very normal family," Spillane said. "He had a job, and he was very quiet and very well-mannered. Anytime that I saw him, he was very well-mannered, always good posture and well-spoken."

However, Xaver’s ex-girlfriend paints a different picture. In a previous interview with FOX 13, Alex Gerlach said Xaver was obsessed with guns and knives.

"The only thing I can remember is him talking about guns and wanting guns," Gerlach said in a 2019 interview. "He wants to hurt people physically."

According to Gerlach, she met Xaver in a psychiatric hospital in 2013. She said they dated off and on for about two years.

Pictured: Zephen Xaver

Pictured: Zephen Xaver

"At one point, my mother was terrified because she thought he was going to physically harm me," explained Gerlach, who described Xaver as a troubled teen. "For some reason, he always hated people and wanted everybody to die."

Gerlach said Xaver continued to make chilling comments over the years and said one week before the shooting he sent her a picture of him holding a gun.

"I've been scared for years and every single person I've told has not taken it seriously, and it's very unfortunate it had to come to this," she said in 2019.

Documents provided by the Bremen Police Department in Indiana state officers went to Xaver's high school in 2014, after school officials said he was having disturbing thoughts.

The documents state Xaver told school officials he had dreams of hurting his classmates. According to the police report, Xaver's mother agreed to take her son to a behavioral health center.

The Florida Department of Corrections confirmed Xaver was a correctional officer trainee with Avon Park Correctional Institution for about two months. He resigned two weeks before the shooting.

Sebring shooting victims

Marisol Lopez, Jessica Montague, Debra Cook and Ana Piñon-Williams were working at the SunTrust branch on U.S. 27 when Xaver opened fire. A customer, Cynthia Watson, was also killed in the attack. 

Following the shooting, Piñon-Williams' brother-in-law made a public statement on behalf of the family. He said the mother of seven was devoted to her family and her faith, "truly a light in this world."

Image 1 of 2


"Loving her was easy. Living without her will be hard. Our family will not only survive, but we will thrive," Tim Williams said.

Bank employee Marisol Lopez, 55, leaves behind her husband and two children. Her Facebook profile picture shows her smiling with a loved one. That smile is how longtime neighbor Gil Osborne said he will remember her.

"She had the best personality, always friendly, always smiling and always generous," Osborne told FOX 13 News in an earlier interview.

Officials said there was another employee in the bank at the time of the shooting. Law enforcement did not name the employee, but said the person was in a back room when shots were fired. They were able to escape and call for help.

Will Zephen Xaver get the death penalty? 

Xaver’s trial will be one of the first high-profile cases in Florida where the death penalty sentence no longer hinges on a unanimous jury verdict.

Florida lawmakers made the change in 2023, shortly after jurors spared the life of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooter in a 9-3 decision.

Florida law now states that a defendant may be sentenced to death if at least 8 of the 12 jurors recommend execution. 

State Attorney Brian Haas says all five of the victims‘ families support seeking the death penalty in this case. 

Prosecturos say they have more than 100 witnesses to call and Xaver's sentencing trial is expected to take several weeks.  

SIGN UP: Click here to sign up for the FOX 13 daily newsletter