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'I'm here for the long haul': Family of fallen firefighter waits for possible plea deal
Court hearing reveals prosecutor, suspect’s attorney working out agreement
A court hearing reveals the prosecutor and suspect’s attorney are working out an agreement after the death of Sterling Lytle. But with the progress comes a delay. Video by kgun9.com
Sterling Lytle was struck by a vehicle in late June, according to police. Doctors took him off life support in early July.
Sarah Lytle-Barcelo, Sterling Lytle's mother, spoke exclusively to 9 On Your Side after Thursday's hearing.
Jesus Zepeda, accused of a hit-and-run that ultimately led to Lytle's death.
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - For the family of fallen firefighter Sterling Lytle, justice can't come soon enough. But Thursday, they learned they'll have to wait longer for it. A court hearing brought news of a delay -- along with progress -- in the case against the man investigators said is responsible for Lytle’s death.
Doctors took Lytle, a 25-year-old Nogales firefighter, off life support in July. Tucson police said Jesus Zepeda ran him over, causing the injuries.
Wearing an orange jumpsuit Thursday, Zepeda sat shackled between other inmates in a Pima County Superior Court room. The county jail reported Zepeda hasn’t been released since his arrest.
Zepeda's attorney, the county prosecutor and the judge agreed to wait 30 more days so both sides could work out a plea agreement. No one mentioned details of the deal, and the Pima County Attorney’s Office later declined to comment on them.
The judge asked Zepeda if he understood this situation.
“Yes, your honor,” the 39 year old replied.
“How do you feel when you see him?” 9 On Your Side reporter Kevin Keen asked Lytle’s mother, Sarah Lytle-Barcelo, after the hearing. “I still want to throw up,” she answered. “I still to vomit.”
Lytle-Barcelo, along with more than a dozen family members and friends, have been in the courtroom for every step of the process. The results of Thursday’s hearing -- 140 days since Lytle was hit -- mean more steps.
“I’m here for the long haul, as long as justice for Sterling happens,” Lytle-Barcelo said. “That's all I want. I miss my son.”
“As the days and months have gone by, how have your thoughts of Sterling changed?” Keen asked her. “It doesn't get any easier,” she replied. “You know, Kevin, I cry every day for my son. I have sleepless nights. I wish that he was here -- and especially with the holidays coming upon us. It's hard to handle. I want justice for Sterling, and we have to have faith in our system that it will happen.”
Lytle's parents do understand this case will take time. They applaud the Pima County Attorney's Office and Tucson Police Department for taking the time to get it right.
“The county needs to take the proper steps to ensure that the law is kept and met,” said Casey Barcelo, Lytle’s stepfather. “The last thing we would like to do is go through this long, drawn-out process and end up in an appeals situation, where the individual could potentially walk.”
Still, for them, justice can't come soon enough.