On Monday in Tucson, Arizona, a Pima County Superior Court judge sentenced a man to 6 1/2 years in prison for the killing of a Nogales firefighter in a hit-and-run car accident from June of last year.
At the time of the accident, police stated that the 25-year-old victim, Sterling Lytle was a passenger in a vehicle traveling north on Alvernon Way, when the driver of a pickup truck, 39-year-old Jesus Zepeda, pulled up behind his vehicle and began honking the horn and flashing his brights. Lytle exited his vehicle, and the pickup ran him over. Zepeda then fled the scene.
Lytle was taken to the hospital in critical condition, and was taken off life support on July 3.
Zepeda was arrested on July 27, and was indicted in August on charges of manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident.
According to court documents, the driver of the vehicle Lytle was in admitted to being drunk, and driving with his head lights off, and that Zepeda could have possibly been scared when he and Lytle got out of the vehicle. The friend told police:
"Maybe he got scared and whatever...That's what I think he'd say. Maybe it was self-defense."
Zepeda told police that he had flashed his lights and honked to try to tell the other driver about the headlights. He alleges he thought the man had a weapon as he exited the vehicle and "ducked his head and went forward".
39-year-old Jesus Zepeda pleaded guilty to neglicent homicide last December as in relation to the death of 25-year-old Sterling Lytle.
The terms of the plea agreement permitted PCSC Judge Scott Rash to sentence Zepeda to as little as four years, and as many as eight years in prison.
As a Phoenix car accident lawyer, this would be quite a difficult case to judge, were you the one that had to come with the sentencing.
On the one hand, it is never acceptable to the leave the scene of an accident, and to report it soon thereafter, and one must be held accountable for that act. However, it does seem that the accused has at least some case that he felt threatened and did not run over the man intentionally or in a malicious way.
Our Arizona car accident law firm sends our thoughts and prayers to all those involved, that they may begin to heal from this tragic incident.