Merced man sentenced to 9 years for death of 3-year-old

Jonathan Thao, 24, ran over three-year-old Santos Alvarez with his truck last November, killing the boy.
MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Merced Man found guilty in a three-year-old boy's death last fall will head to state prison for nine years.

The judge gave the maximum sentence to 24-year-old Jonathan Thao, but family members of Santos Alvarez say nine years is not enough. Cousins, aunts, uncles, along with the boy's mother and grandmother gave emotional statements to the judge on Friday, telling him of their extreme loss and asking for an even stiffer sentence for the man they say killed their young family member, and then lied about it. Jonathan Thao was forced to look at pictures of three-year-old Santos Seth Alvarez as he was sentenced to nine years in state prison for his role in the boy's death.

A month ago, Thao pleaded guilty to child abuse causing great bodily injury, and Friday, Judge David Moranda gave him the strictest sentence without the possibility for probation.

But the judge first heard from family members, who had to hold their words for a few extra days after Thao's sentencing was delayed. Santos' mother says her boy was an angel, and they had an unbreakable bond.

"Everyone who has met him has been impacted in some ways or another, because his spirit is so pure, full of Jesus. My son, my best friend, my comforter, and my inspiration," said Sophoeun Alvarez, victim's mother.

"So young, only three years, his life, all gone, it's unfair, no reason," said Belinda Delgado, victim's grandmother.

Family members say they still don't know exactly what happened last November. when Santos was rushed to the hospital by Thao, who claimed it was a random hit and run at a Merced McDonald's Restaurant. But earlier this year, police found evidence linking Thao with the boy's death, saying he ran over the child his own truck.

"It could have been an accident, who knows? That's something we'll never know. But the minute he started lying about it, I think that became murder," said Marina Carrillo, victim's aunt.

"We can't have the right justice if we don't know exactly what happened," said Juanita Alvarez, victim's cousin.

She says their entire family believed nine years isn't enough for a man that took a whole lifetime away from the energetic and loving child they nicknamed Mowgli, after the boy in the jungle book.

"He was pretty wild, he was a handful, but he was a great kid," said Francisco Alvarez, victim's uncle.

Francisco Alvarez drove from Phoenix for the sentencing, and says his family will have to live with the nine year sentence. But he says the many memories of Santos, will always live on.

Thao will not be present for a restitution hearing in about a month. He may then have to pay $2,700 in restitution. null
Copyright © 2019 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.