The gymnasium was filled with screaming, cheering and clapping from students as a 9-year-old, one of their classmates and a student at High Mount School in Swansea, was made an honorary junior deputy Tuesday. Nicholas Day was recognized by St. Clair County Sheriff Richard Watson for his bravery.
Day’s mother was stabbed to death, allegedly by her boyfriend, a 38-year-old East St. Louis man, on Aug. 29. Nicholas also was stabbed several times in the attack.
Watson told Nicholas: “Thank you for what you’ve done. You showed the other kids you are a positive role model. I am going to make you an honorary junior deputy sheriff.”
Nicholas smiled and reached out to Watson and accepted a blue and gold badge that read “junior deputy” and a plaque that read “honorary junior deputy, St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department.”
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Watson thanked Nicolas for being brave and shook his hand. Nicholas quickly ran back into the bleachers to sit next to his teacher, Kristy Brink, whom he said he loved because “she’s nice.”
During an interview with a News-Democrat reporter, Nicholas talked about his love of football.
“I play football for the Knights. I play the end,” he said. “ I run fast. I can catch, too.”
Nicholas said, “it was fun” to be made a junior deputy.
Brink said Nicholas returned to school Wednesday. He was stabbed several times, including once in the neck allegedly by Alvin Harris, Jr., his mother’s boyfriend. He told police Harris had stabbed him. Harris also allegedly stabbed his mother to death. Police found Sharetta Day on a parking lot outside of her Swansea apartment at 270 Marcella Dr. with multiple stab wounds. Harris is being held in St. Clair County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail. He is charged with first degree murder of Sharetta Day and aggravated battery of a child.
Brink said Nicholas is a very lovable boy who likes to give hugs and always smiles.
“He loves football,” she said. “Everyday at recess he plays football.”
Brink said she is happy to see him running around with boundless energy, just the way he did before the tragedy occurred.
“I am very proud that he’s able to persevere and keep going in spite of the ordeal he’s faced. But, I feel awful for him. He doesn’t have a mom,” she said.
Brink knows all too well what Nicholas is going through. Her sister and her husband, the Gatzler family, were killed in a plane crash in Kentucky. Her niece who is now 8 years old survived the accident. Brink said she is happy that she is his teacher and can help him deal with his emotions.
“All of the teachers here have been supportive,” she said. “We all want the best for him in his recovery.”
Brink said all of the teachers paid to wear blue jeans to school, and the money raised went to the Nicholas Day trust fund. The students also had a “hat” day,” and the money was donated to the fund as well. About $1,500 was raised.
Superintendent Mark Halwachs said he’s “excited to see he’s (Nicholas) in a good place right now. When the tragedy happened to him and his mother, it broke my heart,” he said.
“It speaks volumes of his family, his upbringing. He was able to persevere and come back to school,” Halwachs said. “I am impressed by his mental and physical will. I am impressed by the morals and values his mom set forth. He’s a great young man.”
Erica Day, Nicolas’ aunt, said Nicholas “amazes me everyday. We went to his mother’s apartment to clean it out. I was going to drop him off, but he wanted to go. We prayed before we went in and he was fine,” she said. “He’s getting so much love. He hasn’t broken down. But, I know there will be bad days, and we will be here for him. Right now, though, he’s his normal self.”
Nicholas was a main attraction at the St. Louis Rams football game on Sunday. He was on the field for the coin toss. When it was over, he was given the coin. Erica Day said he slept with the coin on his chest.
Brink said at school he talked about two NFL players he met — Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks and Tavon Austin of the St. Louis Rams.
Elizabeth Day, his grandmother, said the family has been getting through on prayer, a host of friends and taking each day one at a time. “He’s doing good,” she said of Nicholas. “He’s ready to play football again.”
Catherine Munoz, the store manager of the Belleville Kmart and Larry Pultman, loss prevention manager at the store, were on hand to present Nicolas with a blue and gold St. Louis Rams football and to invite him to attend the store’s Community Day Safety event on Oct. 3. Day instantly took the ball out of the box and looked for someone to throw it to. He went outside of the building and tossed it around.
Watson described Nicholas as a “great little guy and a role model.”
He said most adults couldn’t bounce back like Nicholas has.
“He’s outgoing and very humble,” Watson said. “His aunt took him in is commendable of her. And from the conversations I have had with her, she’s the right one for the job.”
Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.