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A hit-and-run suspect behind bars, a criminal past revealed

A hit-and-run suspect behind bars, a criminal past revealed

CREATED Jul 30, 2012
Reporter: Kevin Keen
 
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Friends and family of Sterling Lytle are struggling to cope with his loss, but the fact that the man wanted for Lytle's death is behind bars is making it just a little easier. KGUN9 News looked into the suspect's past run-ins with the law--a criminal history that sickens those closest to the fallen firefighter.
 
Thirty-nine-year-old Jesus Xavier Zepeda turned himself in Friday, more than a month after police said he struck Lytle with a pick-up truck in Tucson and drove off.
 
Aftin and Kevin Chaffee, friends of Lytle, are relieved because the man wanted in the fatal hit-and-run is behind bars.
 
“It was only a matter of time before the police caught up with him anyways,” Kevin told KGUN9 News. “I think that him turning himself in--for once in his life he did the right thing.”
 
Just who is Zepeda? KGUN9 did some digging and found he is no stranger to breaking the law. Tucson court records show he's been found guilty of assault, drug possession and a slew of traffic violations over the past two decades.
 
“This guy's a criminal. He has a history,” Kevin said. “This time, he took a 5,000-pound weapon and he killed somebody with it.”
 
The Chaffees searched Zepeda's criminal past on their own, wanting to know more about the man they and police believe killed their friend.
 
“It's quite amazing that with the history that he has that he's actually still out there on the street,” Kevin said. “It was very disturbing to see the continued lack of respect for the law that this guy has. It’s just been building up over the years--building and building until now.”
 
The Chaffees are eager for justice for Lytle.
 
KGUN9 reporter Kevin Keen asked Kevin, “Could forgiveness be in the picture?” “It's hard to think about that right now,” he responded. “I think it's still too early in the game. I believe in forgiving people, but right now it's too early. Definitely too early.”
 
As of Monday afternoon, the Pima County Attorney's Office had not filed full charges against Zepeda. Staff said the investigation is ongoing and those charges could come in the next few days. Records show Zepeda was initially booked for leaving the scene of a crash
 
Lytle’s friends plan to be at every one of Zepeda’s court appearances. They said they want to show the judge and the system that they demand justice.
 
“I'm going to be there to make sure he doesn't get away with it,” Kevin said.