Larry LaRue

Five years later in Fife, a garden for Jayden

Jayden Wayman was 3 months old when he was killed by a drunk driver on Jan. 24, 2010. On Oct. 29, the Fife Police Department and Wayman family are holding a memorial garden dedication and blood drive in memory of Baby Jayden at the Fife Criminal Justice Center.
Jayden Wayman was 3 months old when he was killed by a drunk driver on Jan. 24, 2010. On Oct. 29, the Fife Police Department and Wayman family are holding a memorial garden dedication and blood drive in memory of Baby Jayden at the Fife Criminal Justice Center. Courtesy Wayman family

Fife detectives Tom Thompson and Jeff Nolta knew it was bad when they saw fellow police officers crying.

“It was a hit-and-run accident where the suspect left his vehicle and ran,” Thompson said. “All we knew was it was an injury accident, a suspected drunk driver.

“Then we got to the scene and learned the victim was 3 months old.”

Matthew Ryan Hamilton, 25, ran a red light on Jan 24, 2010, hitting the car carrying baby Jayden Wayman driven by his father, Jon Wayman.

Jayden’s mother, Karla, was driving a second family car after a day spent with grandparents. She was directly behind her husband’s vehicle when Hamilton T-boned it at the intersection of 20th Street and 70th Avenue East.

Though he was buckled into his car seat, Jayden suffered serious head injuries. Two days later, he died at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma.

“Jayden donated his heart, kidneys and liver and helped save three lives,” Karla Wayman said. “We met the little girl who got his heart a year later.”

Detectives Thompson and Nolta found the suspect within three hours of the accident after tracking down his ex-girlfriend’s mother, who told them where he might be staying.

“We got lucky, we got to catch the bad guy that night,” Thompson said. “Other officers had to work the scene and talk to the family.

“It took a toll on all of us working that night. A lot of us had kids. It affected me more than any case I’ve ever worked.”

Hamilton was convicted of vehicular homicide under the influence of alcohol and leaving the scene. He was sentenced to nine years, eight months and remains in prison.

Jon and Karla Wayman still live in Fife with children Katana, 11, Jaxton, 3, and Joel, who just turned 1.

“When we found out I was pregnant with a boy, I really struggled with it; I wanted a girl, so I wouldn’t have to deal with all the same stuff I’d been through with Jayden,” Karla said. “God knows best, and Jaxton was a completely different boy.

“Still, I found it hard to be around babies after the accident.”

She visited the Fife Police Department often, and still does.

“In cases like this, many families don’t want to be reminded of what happened, and we remind them,” said Thompson, now a sergeant. “Mrs. Wayman comes by every time she bakes. She’s always bringing treats in.”

Why? Karla Wayman said it goes back to the night of the accident.

“When Jayden was killed, a lot of officers were hit hard. I think it rattled the whole station. They were affected by it,” she said. “The first night in the hospital, the police chief came down and sat with us for hours.”

Thompson keeps a photograph of Jayden on his work desk.

“There are times when I’ll be working a case and not getting anywhere, when I get frustrated and wonder why I ever became a policeman,” Thompson said. “When I get that way, I look at Jayden’s picture. It inspires me. He’s the reason why I’m a cop. Other officers come by and look at the picture, too.”

But a photograph wasn’t enough for them.

“About three years ago,” Thompson said, “Jeff Nolta and I started talking about putting something together for Jayden that was just for us here at the station. For when we forget why we do this job.”

They wanted to establish a special place outdoors where officers could come, sit and quietly reflect.

Thompson ran it by the Wayman family, who loved the idea.

“Then we had a few hurdles to clear,” Thompson said.

Life is busy around the Wayman house these days, but the family regularly talks about Jayden, keeping his memory alive.

“If I were asked to give advice to another (grieving) parent, I’d say two things. Turn to God for strength. Also, don’t bury it inside you, don’t avoid it. It’s healthy to talk about your child. Honor them any way you can.”

The pain is little diminished for the Wayman family, though Karla said she is handling it better.

“For months after Jayden died, I’d only do things that were absolutely necessary,” she said. “As things have happened, the children have come, and I have more distractions in life. I don’t know that it’s easier.

“We have so much to celebrate, but this month is always hard for me …”

On Jayden’s birthday, Oct. 29, the Waymans will host a blood drive, as they have each of the past four years. The Fife Police Department always turns out en masse.

This year, the date will be observed a little differently.

After more than two years of discussion, debate and delay, the Fife Police Department got permission this month to create the Jayden Wayman Memorial Garden.

“The city donated a small section of grass in front of the station and court,” Thompson said. “The Parks and Recreation Department wanted to be part of putting it together. So did our city mechanics and our entire department.

“After all the waiting, with all those volunteers we did it in an afternoon.”

It will be dedicated on Thursday, which would have been Jayden’s sixth birthday. His family will attend the ceremony.

“The little guy only got three months on this earth, but he affected so many people, even when he wasn’t here,” Thompson said. “I’m glad we’re getting to do this. For him and for us.”

Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638


Blood drive and memorial garden dedication

Day: Thursday, Oct. 29

Time: Dedication ceremony, 3 p.m.; blood drive, 2 to 5 p.m.

Location: Fife Criminal Justice Center ,3737 Pacific Highway East, Fife