Three victims in Florida bank shooting identified

By Nicholas Sakelaris and Daniel Uria

Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Police on Thursday identified three of the five women shot dead by accused gunman Zephen Xaver at a Florida bank.

Speaking at a news conference, authorities said Cynthia Watson, 65, a customer in the bank at the time of the shooting, and 55-year-old bank employee Marisol Lopezby were among the dead. Their families said they wanted their names to be known by the public.


Watson's widower, Tony Watson, said they married 23 days ago and that she was "very hard working, she never stopped and she took care of everyone."

Family members identified a third victim, 38-year-old bank employee Ana Piñon-Williams, at another news conference later on Thursday.

"We're determined to let Ana's memory be marked by the life she lived. The people she loved and the difference she made," Piñon-Williams' brother-in-law, Tim Williams, said.


"She accepted others where they were in life. Loving came easy for her. Loving her was easy."

Scott Dressel, the public information officer for the Highlands County Sheriff's Office, said the fourth and fifth victims were 31 years old and 54 years old and their names are being withheld in accordance with a state law protecting crime victims and their families -- Marcy's Law.

All five dead in the shooting were women.

Xaver appeared in court Thursday after the attack in Sebring, Fla., and was appointed a public defender. He was denied bond on five counts of premeditated murder.

Sebring police Chief Karl Hoglund said Xaver started shooting in the Sun Trust Bank on Wednesday and called 911 to tell dispatchers he'd killed five people. A SWAT team had him in custody a short time later. By then, all five victims had died, Hoglund said.

State Attorney Brian Haas said a grand jury in the coming weeks could indict Xaver on first-degree murder charges.

"We have two priorities: One, to build the best case possible to ensure prosecution that ends in a successful result while seeking everything, we can the maximum allowed by law," Haas said. "The second priority is to be there for the families of the victims. They are hurting today in an unbelievable way."


Investigators have not determined a motive for the attack. Hoglund said no one was targeted and it didn't appear to be a bank robbery.

"We will seek the highest penalty possible to hold this person accountable for their actions," he added.

"This individual needs to face very swift and exacting justice," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said.

The Public Defenders Office said it was denied access to Xaver when he was in police custody.

Xaver recently relocated to Florida from Indiana. Ex-girlfriend Alex Gerlach told WSBT-TV he was an angry man.

"I never understood where it started," she said. "For some reason [he] always hated people and wanted everyone to die."

She also said Xaver always liked firearms and bought a gun last week.

"Every single person I've told has not taken it seriously, and it's very unfortunate that it had to come to this," she said.

Xaver was hired in November at the Avon Park Correctional Institution, but resigned this month without explanation, spokesman Patrick Manderfield said.

This shooting occurred about 150 miles north of Parkland, Fla., where 17 students and teachers died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year. That shooting spurred many MSD students to become gun control advocates.


Latest Headlines