FORT WORTH -- The girl's letter started: "Hi Jeremy my name is Xitclalli Vasquez. But they call me Chilli."
On Thursday, Chilli's mom, Arabella Vasquez, read the letter aloud in a courtroom after Jeremy -- that is, Jeremy Solis, 21, of Fort Worth -- was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Solis had pleaded guilty to two counts of intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury. He caused a wreck last year that left Chilli, then 7, paralyzed from the waist down. Chilli's aunt, who was driving the car, sustained a fractured neck and broken leg.
"I don't remember the first several days," Chilli wrote. "I could not talk so I had to use my thumb to answer yes and no. While I was in ICU I had very bad moments."
On July 9, 2011, Solis, driving a stolen car, crossed the center line on Northeast 28th Street near Sylvania Avenue and slammed head-on into the car that Chilli's aunt was driving. Two of Chilli's sisters and a cousin were in the vehicle, too.
Solis' blood alcohol level was 0.23, nearly three times the legal limit, prosecutor Allenna Bangs said.
Solis was not injured, Bangs said.
Chilli spent the next 104 days in Cook Children's Medical Center. It was about a month before she could talk again, Arabella Vasquez said.
In interviews Tuesday, Arabella Vasquez said: "When we got to the hospital, the doctor said something's not right here. The doctor said they had to take her into surgery right away. She had ruptured her intestines in three places. Four days later, they told us that she was paralyzed."
Vasquez described it as nerve damage.
"I have hope that she will walk again," Vasquez said. "I go to church and I have faith. I had a dream that she would walk again."
Last week, Chilli was rolled in her wheelchair to the front of state District Judge Everett Young's court so Solis could see her while her letter was read.
Chilli did not want to read the letter -- it was too emotional, Bangs said.
"There were times when I would cry and cry," the letter said. "I understand that the nurses only wanted the best for me, but it really hurt when I couldn't do it. In therapy they showed me how to lift myself and dress myself. But right now it's still very hard."Witnesses said Solis cried as Vasquez read.
'I can't do the things
that I used to do'
In an interview, Vasquez said: "On July 8, she was independent, and then her life changed 360 degrees. She had to depend on Mom and Grandma and a nurse at one time to change her. She has to depend on her brothers and sisters to give her things.
"Honestly, I think she tries to be the same person that she used to be, although she does have bouts of depression."
Medical bills reached $1.6 million during the first 30 days.
"I don't even look at the bills anymore," Vasquez said. "I'm not even sure how much I owe. Every month a new one comes in the mail."
Chilli said she goes back and forth from feeling bad for Solis to being angry at him. She has a cousin who is Solis' age and once told her mother that it could have been him who was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
"I get mad at him some days because I can't do the things that I used to do, like fight with my brother," Chilli said. "I used to win all the time."
Solis had no prior Tarrant County DWI convictions.
Vasquez said she and her husband have four other children, and they all help get Chilli ready for school in their Diamond Hill home. One brings a toothbrush. Another helps position Chilli under the sink, Vasquez said.
Taking care of Chilli adds about 30 minutes of preparation time to everyone's morning. The wreck occurred three days before Chilli's eighth birthday, Vasquez said. She still remembers the fun she had that day, getting her hair and nails done, her mother said.
Chilli said she will continue to write Solis while he is in prison.
"She's a feisty little 9-year-old," Bangs said.
A designated driver is essential when people go out and drink, Bangs said. Anyone can become a victim, and the family of the drunken driver has also lost a son to prison
"He will have to deal with this for the next 10 years," Bangs said. "But she's looking at a lifetime of being his victim. It's just one of the tragedies of this case."
Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752