Los Banos — Family members of 10-year-old Jayden Thomas continue 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 Wednesday.
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."
Accused drunken driver Justin Nappi, 20, appeared Wednesday wearing glasses and a gray T-shirt over a blue sweat shirt, while Judge Edward Lacy and attorneys continued Nappi's 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. Police said Jayden and his family were riding in a 1992 BMW that was struck on its passenger side by a 1991 Chevy pickup driven by Nappi. Police said Nappi ran a stop sign at Place Road and East B Street.
The tragedy set off an outpouring of support from the community, which held a vigil and fund-raisers the next day. Los Banos families also arranged 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 sweat shirts bearing the No. 7, his 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 out glass shards from the opening, Thomas said. Removing the pieces of glass 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.
Thomas said "there's no doubt in my mind" that Nappi is guilty and should not have gotten behind the wheel, and she believes the sentence should be as harsh as possible. "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 some solace. "I want to thank the community for all the support they're giving my family," she said.
Wednesday, the judge granted Nappi a three-hour window later this month to see an orthodontist, to 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 a corrections or off-duty officer chosen by the Merced County Sheriff's Department would accompany Nappi during the dental visit. If an off-duty officer is necessary, the defense attorney's office would pay his or her wages.
Los Banos Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or firstname.lastname@example.org.