FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Her shoes were dotted with rhinestones and hearts. A glittery, pink, leopard-print purse was slung over her shoulder. A big, polka-dot bow held back her brown hair. A smile that sometimes betrays the slight mischievous nature of a knowing 9-year-old spread across her face. There is nothing to separate Xitclalli “Chilli” Vasquez from any other Fort Worth fourth-grader, except for the things that she said she misses.
“Like, go fight with my brothers and sisters,” she said with that smile. Those are the things a 9-year-old who remembers walking, but now sits in a wheelchair, misses. She is paralyzed from the breast plate down, the result of a head-on car wreck in July 2011. It happened three days before her birthday, on an outing to get her hair and nails done. She doesn’t remember much, just waking up in the ICU with nurses around her.
The 19-year-old driving the other car had a blood alcohol content of .23, nearly three times the legal limit. Jeremy Solis pled guilty last week to two counts of intoxication assault. As is common at sentencing hearings, the victims were given a chance to speak to the court about how the crime has affected them. Chilli jumped at the chance.
In the careful print of a learning student, where each “i” is dotted with a circle, Chilli put her thoughts on paper. She filled three lined pages, and the top of a fourth. “Hi Jeremy,” she started. “My name is Xitclalli Vasquez, but they call me Chilli, and I am a fourth-grader, so I was diagnosed as a paraplegic.”
She detailed her hospital stay, the feeding tubes, x-rays. She told about the visitors and the pastor who would pray for her. School was her favorite time of the day. Therapy was the worst. “There are days that I cry because I can’t do what I used to do,” the 9-year-old said.
She didn’t have quite enough courage to read it in open court, so her mother decided to do it for her. First, she wheeled Chilli to the front of the courtroom, where everyone, including Solis, could see her. “As soon as I walked up, rolling her in there right next to me, he started crying,” said Arabella Vasquez, Chilli’s mother. The emotion spread.
“There was not a dry eye in the courtroom,” said Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Allenna Bangs. “Everybody from the judge, the bailiffs, I think even the defendant was crying at some point. You could really feel the impact of how much this hurt this family.”
Judge Everett Young then sentenced Solis to the maximum of 10 years on two counts of intoxication assault. He’ll serve at least five, according to Bangs.
Chilli said she doesn’t feel bad for him anymore. She wants to write him again. She wants to meet him, and meet his family. She also believes that, with therapy, she’ll walk again someday. Chilli finished her letter though with a question, one that may hint at a young girl who remembers the way life used to be, and is still not quite sure how it turned into what it is. “Look at what I said, and the words I said, and tell me how I feel. How do you feel today?”
She left nearly half a page blank, before writing one more sentence. “Do you remember of July 9th?”
The Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office has adopted the Vasquez family for the holiday season. Medical bills have topped $1.6 million and are climbing. Anyone interested in contributing can email Melody McDonald Lanier at email@example.com.
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