DUI killer of Los Banos 10-year-old gets 7 years

cpride@losbanosenterprise.comMarch 7, 2014 

Justin Nappi was sentenced in a Los Banos courtroom Thursday to seven years in prison in the 2012 DUI death of a 10-year-old headed home from a youth football game.

Nappi, who has accumulated 577 days credit, will likely serve about five years. He also was ordered to pay $16,000 in restitution.

Nappi had faced a maximum of 19 years and eight months in prison for gross vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence causing injury and driving with a measurable blood-alcohol level causing injury. All three are felonies and carry enhancements of injuries to other passengers.

Before delivering the sentence, Judge Harry Jacobs cited Nappi’s lack of a criminal record.

“There isn’t any way to do real justice here,” Jacobs said. “We have two families, both torn apart.”

In December, Nappi, 22, changed his plea to no contest in the Nov. 3, 2012, drunken driving crash that killed Jayden Thomas, who was on his way home from a Los Banos Wildcats peewee football game in Manteca.

The Volta Elementary School fifth-grader and his family were riding in a 1992 BMW when it was struck on the passenger side by a 1991 Chevrolet pickup. Nappi had run a stop sign at Place Road and East B Street.

Harold Nutt, Merced County chief deputy district attorney, said Nappi’s blood-alcohol level was 0.18, more than twice the legal limit. Nappi was 20 at the time of the accident.

Julio Inguanzo, Jayden Thomas’ uncle, said life has not been the same since he received news of his nephew’s death.

“The night I got that phone call, I was in disbelief. My nephew was my best friend,” Inguanzo said.

He said when he wakes from dreams about Jayden, he immediately writes down everything he remembers so he doesn’t forget his nephew.

Jayden’s mother wrote a statement that was read by victim’s advocate Nieves Stavitsky.

“Out of all the memories I have of my son, I will never be able to erase the image of my lifeless son laid out in my car,” she said in the letter. The 10-year-old’s father, Demond Thomas, said although he has forgiven Nappi, he can never forget what happened.

Nappi sometimes sobbed as Jayden’s family and friends spoke about the perils of drunken driving.

Christine Harbert, Nappi’s aunt, apologized to the Thomas family on behalf of her family.

“I’m in shock (that) we have caused such pain,” she said.

Nappi read a statement in court outlining his life and how it has changed in the 16 months he’s been in jail. He also offered an apology to Jayden’s friends and relatives.

Jeffrey Tenenbaum, Nappi’s attorney, said he believes his client would have benefited from probation, but is grateful Nappi did not receive the maximum sentence.

Demond Thomas said the sentence provides some closure.

“No amount of time is going to bring my son back. I can start to move on now,” he said.

Reporter Corey Pride can be reached at (209) 388-6563 or by email at cpride@losbanosenterprise.com.

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