He’s facing charges in a year-old fatal hit-and-run. He’s out after bail was reduced

A Kennewick man who allegedly hid evidence of his involvement in a November 2018 fatal hit-and-run is out of jail after prosecutors agreed he is not a flight risk.

Sergio Garin-Villalobos, 33, was released from the Franklin County jail on Oct. 25, just three weeks after his arrest. He’s charged with hitting a father of four with his truck along a highway on-ramp in Pasco and driving away.

Prosecutor Shawn Sant and Deputy Prosecutor Lucas Downer agreed to reduce his bail to $30,000 from $50,000 after talking with defense attorney Norma Rodriguez.

In the motion to amend the conditions for his release, it said prosecutors believe that Garin-Villalobos “does not present a high risk of flight, and that he will appear at future court hearings if bail is posted.”

“It is in the best interests of justice to amend the current conditions of release,” it said.

Court Commissioner Darin Campbell signed off on it.

Martin Perez Garcia
Martin Perez Garcia, 27, was killed Nov. 4, 2018, by a hit-and-run driver in Pasco. He had three sons and a daughter. Courtesy Rebecca Pimienta

Sant told the Tri-City Herald that in agreeing to the request, his office considered Garin-Villalobos’ lack of criminal history and the fact he remained in the area instead of trying to run during the 11 months.

Before investigators had identified him as a suspect, Garin-Villalobos had talked with two different law offices and was going to make himself available to investigators, said Sant.

At the time, one of those lawyers inquired about the case with the prosecutor’s office, they had not yet received any reports from the Washington State Patrol, he said.

“We felt that $30,000 would secure (Garin-Villalobos’) presence at trial on a case that’s not alleging any violence,” said Sant. “Really, the allegation is not finding him at fault with the death, it’s finding that he fled the scene of the accident.”

“It’s one of those cases where, had he remained at the scene, I don’t see there being any criminal charges unless he was impaired,” he added.

Garin-Villalobos is charged with failing to stop and identify at the scene of an accident that resulted in a death and tampering with a witness, both felonies.

His trial currently is scheduled Dec. 11.

Troopers and prosecutors say Garin-Villalobos was behind the wheel of a Chevy S10 pickup that hit and killed Martin Perez Garcia in the early hours of Nov. 4, 2018.

Garcia, a father of four, was walking home along Argent Road when he started crossing the on-ramp for Interstate 182 and Highway 395, just west of Columbia Basin College.

He had spent the evening celebrating his girlfriend’s birthday at her family’s home and was headed back to his Pasco apartment, where his sister was waiting with his kids.

Investigators take measurements on Nov. 4, 2018, after the body of Martin Perez Garcia was found in the median off Highway 395 near Argent Road. Annette Cary Tri-City Herald

The 27-year-old’s body was found hours later by a passerby in the median of Highway 395 near Argent. A fog lamp that broke off the truck also was found.

State patrol investigators say in the days after the crash, Garin-Villalobos searched for a replacement windshield for his truck as he read news reports about Garcia’s death. Then in January he sold the pickup to a family member in California.

Detectives say he might not have been caught if it weren’t for an anonymous tip that came in August. The tipster turned out to be his estranged wife.

Kristin M. Kraemer covers the judicial system and crime issues for the Tri-City Herald. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years in Washington and California.