Justice on mind of 10-year-old's family as hearing continued

Nappi returns to court Feb. 13; Thomases still dealing with loss

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comJanuary 10, 2013 

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

Jayden's mother Maria Thomas said Christmas was particularly rough.

"We're used to seeing him running through the house, cracking jokes," Thomas said. "It's especially hard during the holidays."

Accused drunken driver Justin Nappi, 20, appeared before Judge Edward Lacy. Nappi's pre-preliminary hearing was continued to 1:30 p.m. Feb. 13 in the Robert M. Falasco Justice Center.

He is charged with one count of gross vehicular manslaughter, a count of driving under the influence causing injury and driving with a measurable blood alcohol level causing injury. All three counts are felonies and carry enhancements for injuries to other passengers. Nappi pleaded not guilty to the charges on Nov. 7.

Fifth-grader Jayden Thomas, 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, which police say was 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 hit an emotional nerve and set off an outpouring of support from the community, which held a vigil and fundraisers the very next day. Families also lined up to provide meals for the grieving family for the month after the crash.

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

Thomas said her husband, Demond, has healed from internal bleeding 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, with whom they live, 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. "There's no doubt in my mind," she said, that 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.

Thomas said the people of Los Banos have provided her grieving family solace.

"I want to thank the community for all the support they're giving my family," she said.

The judge granted Nappi a three-hour window later this month to see an orthodontist to fix the damage to his braces caused in 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 to the dentist. 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 tmiller@losbanos enterprise.com.

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