Maxton's daughter, Reanna Reed; her son, Joshua; Det. Clark Schwartzkopf.
PHOENIX (CBS5) -
Cold case detectives have made an arrest in the case of a mother of three children who was found dead along a Phoenix road in 1996.
Ronald Cortez was arrested Tuesday by Chino Valley police officers with help from the Yavapai County Attorney's Office. He has been booked into the Yavapai County jail on one count of first-degree murder.
Sarah Maxton, 30, was found murdered the evening of Jan. 19, 1996.
"She was taken to the desert and basically executed," Phoenix Police Detective Clark Schwartzkopf said at a news briefing on Wednesday.
The case went cold until 2009. That's when detectives began working leads.
"We were able to contact several witnesses who at the time were uncooperative, and now had become cooperative," Schwartzkopf said. "So we were able to put together a timeline of the last five hours of Sarah's life and that lead us to Mr. Cortez."
He was arrested in Chino Valley Tuesday night, where he'd been living for the last seven years. Cortez was booked into the infirmary at the Yavapai County Jail.
Reanna Reed remembers her mom as an amazing woman who did what she could for her and her two brothers.
"She lit up the room," Reed said. "She was so giving and caring. She loved being a mom, she really did. She loved being there for her family."
Reed said she believes her family is finally getting justice for their mom.
"I seriously never thought that especially 17 years later that something like this would happen," Reed said.
Even though Reed said the suspect took her mom away forever, she said she forgives him and hopes he knows how much pain he caused the family.
Police said that Cortez may not have been the only one there during the brutal crime.
Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.