Driver accused of killing 10-year-old boy in DUI crash appears in court

tmiller@mercedsun-star.comJanuary 9, 2013 

The family of 10-year-old Jayden Thomas continues to heal from their physical and emotional wounds, as the man accused of crashing into their car after drinking and driving had another court date in Los Banos.

Jayden's mother Maria Thomas said Christmas was particularly rough for their family. “We’re used to seeing him running through the house, cracking jokes,” Thomas said. “It’s especially hard during the holidays."

Suspected drunken driver Justin Nappi, 20, appeared Wednesday wearing glasses and a gray T-shirt over a blue sweatshirt, while Judge Edward Lacy and attorneys continued Nappi's pre-preliminary hearing until Feb. 13 at 1:30 p.m. in the Robert M. Falasco Justice Center.

Fifth-grader Jayden, a Los Banos Wildcats peewee quarterback, was killed Nov. 3 on his way home from a football game in Manteca. Jayden and his family were riding in a 1992 BMW, struck on its passenger side by a 1991 Chevy pickup driven by Nappi. Police said Nappi ran a stop sign at the intersection of Place Road and East B Street.

The tragedy set off an outpouring of emotion from the community, which held a vigil and fundraisers the next day. Los Banos Families also lined up to provide meals for the grieving family for the month after the car wreck.

Jayden's grandmother, grandfather and two aunts were in the courtroom Wednesday. Jayden's aunts wore sweatshirts bearing the No. 7, Jayden's jersey number, bracketed by wings.

Maria Thomas said her husband Demond has healed from internal bleeding he suffered in the accident. Thomas' daughter, Ja'Leiah, 8, returned to school about 10 days before winter break.

The cuts on the head of Jazlien, 2, who has sutures along her hairline, are still healing and pushing glass shards from the opening, Thomas said. Removing the shards would cause scarring.

"That's something we're still dealing with," she said.

Thomas said the family along with her parents, whom they live with, visited Jayden's grave on Christmas Day.

"We dressed up at the house, and put flowers and candles at the graveside," Thomas said.

Nappi's sentence, Thomas said, should be as harsh as possible. Thomas said "there's no doubt in my mind" Nappi is guilty and should not have gotten behind the wheel. “Use him as an example that drinking and driving should not be tolerated,” she said in a phone interview, appealing to the court system.

Thomas said the people of Los Banos have provided her grieving family some solace. “I want to thank the community for all the support they’re giving my family,” she said.

The judge Wednesday granted Nappi a three-hour window later this month to see an orthodontist, who can fix the damage caused to his braces during the wreck. Jeffrey Tenenbaum, Nappi's attorney, said some of the wiring is digging into his client’s mouth.

The judge said either a correction’s officer or an off-duty officer, picked by the Merced County Sheriff’s Department, would accompany Nappi during the doctor’s visit. If an off-duty officer is necessary, the defense attorney’s office would pay his or her wages.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at

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