Miguel A. Paniagua appeared to smirk as he sat shackled in a Franklin County courtroom Thursday awaiting his first appearance in the hit-and-run death of a Kennewick father.
If convicted, he faces decades in prison for the April 2 crash that killed Jason E. Smith.
Paniagua, 23, appeared before Judge Vic VanderSchoor on several charges related to the crash, including vehicular homicide.
VanderSchoor set bail at $500,000. Prosecutors recommended the amount, in part, because they said Paniagua notoriously fails to show up for court dates, including five failures to appear this year.
He is scheduled to return to court next week to enter a plea. He told the judge he was looking to hire a lawyer but in the meantime, he was assigned a public defense attorney.
The convicted felon with an extensive felony history was tracked down early Wednesday at a house on North Sixth Avenue in Pasco. Tri-Cities Crime Stoppers offered a cash reward for information on his whereabouts and a tip came into police that led them to the house.
Pasco police say Paniagua, who is known on the streets as “Cricket,” had been on the run, bouncing from house to house, since the crash at Road 36 and Sylvester Street. He surrendered after police surrounded the home.
The April 2 collision came minutes after Paniagua allegedly fled from a Pasco officer during an attempted traffic stop. Police say he was driving more than 60 mph and “torpedoed” into Smith’s car.
Smith had just dropped his daughter off at gymnastics and was headed to the post office, said his family.
Surveillance footage captured a person resembling Paniagua running from the scene, court documents said. Police said they found a loaded .357 revolver in Paniagua’s truck.
He also is charged with attempting to elude police, first-degree unlawful possession of a gun and failing to stop and identify at the scene of an injury accident.
A fundraiser was held in Kennewick this week for Smith’s wife and two daughters. To donate to the family, go to www.gofundme.com/qwf6bg.