'He would still be out on the streets': Family reveals tipsters' role in hit-and-run

Kevin Keen

Photo: Video by kgun9.com

'He would still be out on the streets': Family reveals tipsters' role in hit-and-run

CREATED Jul. 3, 2013
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A mother sobbed in agony one year to the hour doctors took her only child off life support. Sarah Lytle Barcelo gathered with family and friends of her son, Sterling Lytle, to remember his life Wednesday. For the first, the firefighter's family also revealed what cracked the hit-and-run case that ultimately took his life.
 
Lytle, a Nogales firefighter, died July 3, 2012 at a Tucson hospital. Days earlier, someone hit the 25 year old with a truck then took off.
 
“Last night, I was thinking about how I had to make the decision to -- we had to make the decision to let Sterling go,” Lytle Barcelo said. “I just kind of remember him when he was passing.”
 
“I wouldn't wish that on any parent,” she said.
 
Lytle Barcelo led a short ceremony Wednesday around Lytle’s grave in Catalina Foothills. Dozens gathered, holding American flags and releasing red, white and blue balloons in the sky.
 
“Celebrate Sterling's life,” Lytle Barcelo told everyone. “He brought such pleasure to mine.”
 
Among the faces: fellow firefighters.
 
“I’m just waiting for him to show up. It's just still surreal,” said Chief Alan Karnas of Helmet Peak Volunteer Fire Department. “Every day, I’m up there just waiting for him to show up and say, 'Hey, I’m here to pull a shift.' It's just lonely without him. It's just not the same.”
 
“I would not wish this on my enemy,” said Casey Barcelo, Lytle's stepfather. “It's been hard.”
 
But amid the grief: gratitude.
 
Days after Lytle died, volunteers spread 12,000 fliers asking for tips to find the driver who hit him.
  
Weeks later, police publicly named Jesus Javier Zepeda and the 39 year old then turned himself.
 
After a judge sentenced Zepeda to six and a half years behind bars, Lytle Barcelo learned those fliers paid off. She said police waited to tell her two people pointed investigators to Zepeda.
 
“Without them, I would say that he would still be out on the streets,” Casey Barcelo said.
  
“I'm very grateful because of a lot of times these families don't catch who killed their child," Lytle Barcelo said.
 
“We could still be wondering what happened. That's a terrible feeling,” she added. “I know. I spent almost 30 days wondering what happened. Who killed my son and why?”
 
“If other people have information on crimes that have not been solved, I think it's imperative and very important that they do the right thing and turn them in,” Lytle Barcelo added.
 
The two tipsters who came forward received the $30,000 reward promised in the fliers.

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