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Hit-and-run leads 9-year-old's family to fight for changes in their neighborhood

Matthew Garza
Posted at 12:55 PM, Jul 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-20 17:37:21-04

NORTH COLLEGE HILL, Ohio — When 9-year-old Matthew Garza was hit by a car on Betts Avenue, the emergency changed his family dynamics and fortunes. And it wasn't the first or even the second challenge his family has faced in 2020.

"I just hope that that person knows how much they've affected our life," said Dystinie Snapp, Matthew's mom.

Garza returned home last weekend after surgery and a couple of days in the hospital. He still has a concussion and his humerus is broken. That's not to mention the emotional trauma of being hit by a car.

"He still has spells of throwing up, spells of not knowing where he is, sleepless," said Snapp. "The only reason he knows he got hit by a car is because of the news. The first time I told him, he didn't believe me."

North College Hill Police said Santi Estill, Jr. turned himself in after the crash. He is charged with not stopping after an accident and driving under suspension.

"I don't want to ruin his life," said Snapp. "I just hope that, in the future, he thinks when he's behind the wheel."

Santi Estill, Jr's car
The vehicle police say Santi Estill, Jr was driving when he hit nine-year-old Matthew Garza. Courtesy: North College Hill Police Department

"I try to do stuff, but it's hard," Garza told WCPO.

He was chasing one of his family's dogs across the street when he was struck.

"I remember when the dog ran to somebody's fence and I went to the back of the house and then once we got to the back of the house, BOOM, I'm gone," he said.

Snapp and her five kids had moved into a house on Cordova Avenue two weeks earlier. It was a fresh start for her, a chance to rebuild her savings.

Snapp is part of a pilot program through Maslow's Army, which has helped her for months after she lost her job as a waitress when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down indoor dining. She told WCPO she was then evicted and moved into a Northern Kentucky hotel.

Her fortunes started to change a few months ago when she got a job at the hotel in which the family was staying. A Kentucky postal worker saw her story on the Maslow's Army Facebook page and donated a vehicle to her. After a trip to Manchester, Snapp had a way to get her kids around town.

Dystinie Snapp gets a donated car
A Manchester, KY postal worker donated a car to Dystinie Snapp, seen here with her son Matthew. Courtesy: Maslow's Army

They moved into the Cordova Avenue house, originally intended to be a three-month, rent-free stay, as a "hand up," according to Maslow's Army founder Sam Landis.

Now, Snapp is off work to care for Garza full-time for the foreseeable future. She said she had just been promoted before the hit-and-run.

With medical bills adding up and no income coming in, Landis and Maslow's Army are using a GoFundMe page to help raise money to keep Snapp financially afloat.

Snapp, some neighbors and representatives from Maslow's Army are planning a "Slow Down for Matthew" protest at the corner of Betts and Cordova Avenues on Thursday, July 23 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Besides carrying signs asking drivers to slow down, the group plans to ask the city of North College Hill to install more stop signs and some digital speed signs along Betts Avenue, Landis said.

This summer will feature little traditional fun for 9-year-old Garza.

"He can't go to the park. He can't ride his bike. He can't play his Xbox, so now I've gotta hear 'I can't do anything,'" said Snapp. "And I wish you could, but it's only been five days."

Garza also had a message for drivers through his neighborhood.

"Stop speeding. You could hit me again."