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‘I refuse to see his face:’ Victim’s mom says of DUI offender who killed young author

Updated February 29, 2024 - 8:25 pm

Just being in the courtroom with the motorist who killed 22-year-old Shyayn Bass horrified her grieving mother so much that she appointed her sister — the victim’s aunt — to speak on her behalf during the man’s sentencing hearing.

“His face would only make it worse,” Judy Anderson said as she sobbed and struggled to read from Alice Von Oy’s victim impact statement Thursday. “I refuse to see his face.”

Von Oy was referring to Ali Gonzalo Brandy Aponte, who was ordered by District Court Judge Eric Johnson to serve six to 20 years in a Nevada prison after he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of DUI resulting in death.

Anderson’s plea for a longer sentence was echoed by Bass’ cousin, grandfather and father, who also addressed Johnson and Brandy Aponte, 50, before the judge’s decision.

‘Such a beautiful soul’

Bass was an ambitious up-and-coming published author, who shined bright and was adored by her loved ones and anyone else she effortlessly befriended, according to her family. She was about to start a job with the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District and was preparing to move to New York City to pursue her writing career.

“She was such a beautiful soul,” said her cousin, Vanessa Bass, her eyes welling with tears. “Everybody who’s met her can agree.”

Shyayn Bass was heading to meet a friend the night of Dec. 2 when tragedy struck on Dean Martin Drive, off Interstate 15 near the Strip.

Brandy Aponte and his son had left a Christmas party in a minivan, which the father was driving. Brandy Aponte sped and recklessly passed cars before veering onto wrong-way traffic and hitting Shyayn Bass’ car head-on, Las Vegas police said.

Firefighters had to extract her before rushing her to University Medical Center, where doctors kept her alive long enough for loved ones to say final goodbyes, and for her to give life to other people.

Dwight Bass Jr. said his daughter’s organs helped a 4-year-old girl and three women, ages 29, 33 and 72.

After the hearing, he caressed a necklace that held his daughter’s nose ring — “The one I didn’t like, now it’s mine,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“I still have her guitar; I still have her cowboy boots,” he added.

Shyayn Bass was a third-generation Las Vegan who graduated from Northwest Technical Academy, where, her dad said, she appeared so much on her school’s television programs that “I thought she was going to be an actress.”

She recently had adopted two kittens she renamed Lux Interior and Poison Ivy of the rock band The Cramp. Last year she wrote a book named “Lex’s Halloween,” about a black kitten that hates the day because he would be considered bad luck. Her family found two backpacks full of notebooks filled with content for her next book, which they intend to publish.

Her wrecked car included a thank-you note to the animal shelter, which, according to her father, plans to honor her book every Halloween.

‘You devastated, devastated my life’

The stoic father, who brought two framed portraits of his smiling daughter, wiped away tears throughout the hearing, as did loved ones who sniffled in the court room.

He highlighted their calamitous loss and then turned to Brandy Aponte, who moments before had asked the family for forgiveness, acknowledging that his act had irreparable consequences. Brandy Aponte said that moving forward he wanted to help others, including his cellmates, and to honor the victim and his own family.

“I want you to know that you devastated, devastated my life for the rest of my life, my family, her friends” Bass Jr. told Brandy Aponte. “You have no idea, Shyayn was such a beautiful woman inside and out, and had a future, was going to do her future career. And you ended it on a selfish act.”

Noting that Brandy Aponte was found with nearly three times the blood alcohol level allowed to legally drive, Dwight Bass added: “I hope you live that for the rest of your life, because I have to.”

‘No excuse for what happened’

His father, Dwight Bass Sr., told the court that any prison sentence would only be a fraction of his granddaughter’s life sentence.

“There was no excuse for what happened,” the elder Bass said. “She never saw it coming; she had no chance.”

Her January memorial took place a day after what would have been her 23rd birthday, her dad said.

While the judge told Brandy Aponte that he heard more remorse in the defendant’s Spanish interpreter’s voice, he said that his previously clean criminal history and the fact that he fast-tracked the case by pleading guilty soon after his arrest probably helped him avert a higher sentence.

Bass Jr. said after the hearing that the family wasn’t satisfied with the fact that Brandy Aponte will have a chance to parole out of prison in six years while his daughter was forever gone.

“I just wish our judicial system would be more tough on offenders that get behind the wheel and kill somebody,” he said. “It seems like the victim suffers more than the offender, and it’s not right. It’s not fair.”

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