Formal charges expected in hit-and-run

PORT ANGELES — A 46-year-old Forks man arrested for investigation of felony hit-and-run has been released on his own recognizance pending the filing of formal charges today.

Francisco Comonfort-Saavedra, who allegedly fled the scene of the Aug. 8 early evening collision with a motorcycle before turning himself in Wednesday, on Friday was facing possible $25,000 bail, which was sought by Clallam County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Sarah Woolman.

Superior Court Judge Simon Barnhart instead granted the request by Harry Gasnick of Clallam Public Defender, who argued Friday’s hearing was the second time Comonfort showed up for court in two days on his own without the burden of bail.

The hearing originally had been set for Thursday but was moved to Friday to provide time to get a court-certified interpreter.

Authorities said Comonfort was the driver of a van that hit Forks resident Caylen Phegley, 22, while Phegley rode his motorcycle off state Highway 112, about 5 miles up the Sekiu River Main Line Logging Road.

Phegley was discharged Tuesday from Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

The van’s license plate was found near the smashed motorcycle.

Barnhart was on the verge of postponing Comonfort’s first appearance Friday for a second time after 30 minutes had elapsed because of the continued lack of a court-certified interpreter for Comonfort.

Interpreter needed

Comonfort speaks Mixteco, a language of the indigenous inhabitants of southern Mexico, and for which, Gasnick said, there were no court-certified interpreters.

Woolman argued that the hearing should proceed because the 72-hour hold for filing charges would last only through Monday.

Barnhart approved an interpreter Comonfort was able to understand in a telephonic exchange.

“I set the requirements,” Barnhart said.

Woolman said $25,000 bail was appropriate even though Comonfort does not have a criminal history.

“This whole basis for this request is the severity of what happened here and the condition of Mr. Phegley and the defendant’s response to that, driving away and leaving him there in the middle of a deserted area and then, when the vehicle got stuck, leaving the vehicle,” Woolman said.

Comonfort then waited several days before turning himself in, she said.

The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office had initiated a search for his whereabouts.

“This guy’s custody status shouldn’t change because he now understands what’s being said,” Gasnick responded.

“I still can’t figure out from the pleadings how he knew to come down here in the first place.”

Barnhart said he was disturbed by the circumstances of the incident as alleged and took into account the threat to public safety or the administration of justice.

“The court takes note of Mr. Comonfort’s presence in court as required yesterday and today and does not believe there is a basis to require bail under these circumstances.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.

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