Feb 11, 2013 7:55 PM by Lupita Murillo

Man who killed Nogales Firefighter is sentenced to prison

TUCSON - The man who admitted running down a firefighter is sentenced.

39-year-old Jesus Javier Zepeda will spend 6 ½ years in prison for killing Sterling Lytle last summer.

In July, Sterling Lytle was with a friend in Midtown when he was hit by a man in a truck. The driver took off.

The 25-year-old Lytle was a Nogales firefighter who later died from his injuries.

Nearly a month later, 39-year-old Jesus Javier Zepeda turned himself in, admitting he had been behind the wheel.

Before Superior Court Judge Scott Rash sentenced Zepeda to prison, the victim's mother brought out pictures of her son and she even showed the judge the jeans he was wearing the night he was hit.

She explained how paramedics had to cut them off because he was hit from behind. She had three pictures blown up, one showed a smiling Lytle, one showing him in the hospital fighting for his life, and the final picture of her only child in his coffin.

Jesus Javier Zepeda never looked at the pictures. He never even looked at the four other individuals who gave their victim impact statements to the judge.

Zepeda spoke to the judge, and told him he was remorseful. "It's awful what happened I could go on forever, but nothing is ever going to make this right. The only reason I didn't turn myself immediately was because the whole story was wrong. I was scared."

He claims at first, because of the misinformation the driver gave police he didn't know he had hit anybody with his truck. He says he was driving and the vehicle Lytle and another man were in did not have the lights on. He said he flashed his lights, pulled up beside them and told them about the lights being off. That's when he says both the driver and Lytle who was a passenger got out of their vehicle and were coming toward him. He says he was scared and just ducked in his vehicle and took off.

Brent Pierson, a longtime friend and employer believes Zepeda, who was facing a maximum of 8 years in prison.

"The family lost somebody due to death and we lost a guy who's been doing well for many years . A great man and a great employee," he said.

Sterling Lytle's mother Sarah Barcelo isn't buying it and doesn't believe Zepeda is remorseful. She was hoping Zepeda would've received a life sentence for what he did.

Barceló says, "Sterling will never have an opportunity to come out of his grave to live life. Zepeda will hopefully I don't want to use the word change, but think hard and make changes in his future."

She also thanked the judge, Tucson police, and friends and family. She's convinced had they not put up posters, and got the community involved, Zepeda wouldn't have turned himself in. She believes, if Zepeda were truly remorseful he would've turned himself in earlier.

Zepeda was given 199 days credit toward his sentence.


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