CREATED Aug 13, 2012
Reporter: Kevin Keen
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - An intense and emotional few minutes in a downtown courtroom Monday afternoon. The man Tucson police and Pima County prosecutors say hit a Nogales firefighter and fled the scene appeared in front a judge via video conference. That firefighter, Sterling Lytle, died in July as a result of his injuries. Family and friends packed the courtroom, demanding justice for Lytle but not speaking a word.
They filled more than the first row in of seats in the courtroom and remained silent throughout the arraignment. Appearing by closed circuit video: Jesus Xavier Xepeda, who prosecutors said hit Lytle with a truck--ultimately leading to his death.
“When you see Mr. Zepeda up on that monitor, what goes through your mind?” KGUN9 News reporter Kevin Keen asked Lytle’s mother, Sarah Lytle-Barcelo. “I really do want to throw up,” she answered. “I do want to vomit. I feel sorry for him. I really do.”
“I automatically get nauseous,” said Lytle’s friend Aftin Chaffee, when asked about her reaction to seeing Zepeda. “I get to sick to my stomach just because I just know what he took from me. He took something very dear to my husband, very dear to me.”
“That this is the guy that took away a very dear friend of mine,” added Lytle’s best friend and fellow firefighter Kevin Chaffee. “Anger, disappointment, frustration.”
Intense emotions during a brief court appearance that lasted just minutes. Friends and family said by their presence they want to show they expect justice to be served.
The purpose of the appearance was to state the charges against Zepeda: manslaughter and leaving the scene of a crash.
Lytle-Barcelo is confident justice will come for her son though there are many legal proceedings ahead.
“Sterling was about justice,” she said, tearing up. “That's why I'm so adamant about getting justice for Sterling because he was always about the right thing in life and doing the right thing. He was an outstanding member of this community. He worked very hard to safe lives--not take them away. This monster took my son's life away.”
Zepeda's attorney--a public defender--was not in the courtroom Monday afternoon. Zepeda has not made a formal plea at this stage.
Zepeda will remain in Pima County jail, where he’s been for several weeks. His bond is set at $100,000. His next appearance to manage his case is in mid-September.