Vancouver hit-and-run suspect held on $1 million bail

Vancouver hit-and-run suspect held on $1 million bail »Play Video
Brandon C. Smith (center) is escorted away after his court hearing Thursday morning. (Photo by Lincoln Graves, KATU News)

VANCOUVER, Wash. – The suspect in the hit-and-run that killed two women as they crossed the street in Vancouver on Jan. 19 is being held on $1 million bail.

Brandon C. Smith, 27, appeared in Clark County Superior Court on charges of felony hit-and-run and vehicular homicide Thursday morning. Family members of the two victims, Irina Gardinant and Raisa Mosh, were in attendance. They had no comment after Smith's appearance.

After Thursday's hearing, Smith's attorney, Johnny McMullen, told reporters he believes it's unfair that Vancouver police labeled Smith "uncooperative" during their investigation.

"If one is exercising one’s constitutional rights that we all have and one is availing themselves through law enforcement through counsel, yet another constitutional right, then I guess the question what would we call cooperating," said McMullen. "To me that sounds cooperative."

According to the Vancouver Police Department, Smith agreed through his attorney to turn himself in to police. He did so Wednesday at 5 p.m. without incident and was booked into the Clark County Jail on two counts of vehicular homicide, three counts of hit-and-run, one count of vehicular assault and one count of tampering with evidence, police said.

Brandon Smith will be arraigned on Feb. 7, along with his girlfriend, Kalista Andino, and his mother, Linda D. Smith.

Hit-and-run investigation

Just after 8 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 19, Gardinant, 28, and Mosh, 45 were hit and killed in a crosswalk on Northeast Vancouver Mall Drive and 72nd Avenue by a white pickup truck. Mosh's 12-year-old son suffered minor injuries.

The driver of that truck left the scene.

Through their investigation, police found a white Toyota Tacoma pickup truck at a Vancouver apartment complex that matched the description of the suspect vehicle. They towed it away for evidence processing and identified the registered owner as Brandon C. Smith.

According to court documents, investigators found an email receipt for truck parts on Smith's computer.

Smith's girlfriend 21-year-old Kalista Jade Andino and his mother, Linda D. Smith, 63, were soon arrested and accused of witness tampering.

Brandon Smith and Kalista Andino have a 5-month-old child. On Tuesday night, police took the child into protective custody.

More arrests are expected in this case. Other people may have tampered with evidence or lied to police, Vancouver police spokeswoman Kim Kapp said.

Andino was released from jail Wednesday after she posted bail. She refused to answer questions from reporters as she left the jail.

Rossi and Jessica Coyne showed up at the jail in support of the victims. They live in the neighborhood where Mosh and Gardinant were hit. They don't know the suspects or the victims but it's affected them.

"I'm a mother, and I would hate to see my kids have seen me killed right next to them from an uncaring person," said Jessica.

Linda Smith was released from jail Tuesday afternoon after she posted bail that morning. She also declined to answer questions.

Both women face certain conditions of their release. One of the most significant is that they can't have any contact with other people involved in the case.

Family reaction

About a dozen of the victims’ family members were in court Thursday to see Brandon Smith face a judge, but they didn’t want to talk about the court proceedings or their feelings toward the suspect. Instead, family members are focusing on thanking Vancouver police as well as people who provided valuable information for the investigation and those who have shown them support.

“Though we are finding our strength and comfort in God, we are overwhelmed by the kindness and support of those in our community,” the victims’ family members wrote in a statement sent to KATU News Thursday.

Irina Gardinant’s parents came to Vancouver from Moldova for the funerals over the weekend and plan to head back Friday. Both women’s husbands are left to care for young children.

One victim’s 12-year-old son was hurt in the crash and is recovering in a wheelchair, while the other victim’s young daughter has expressed confusion to a relative.

“She's looking at the picture and says, ‘This is my mom, where is she? When am I going to go home?’” said Tatiana Constantinova a few days after the tragedy.

Raisa Mosh’s niece, Julia Gossen, said both of the victims’ husbands are truck drivers and are concerned they’ll have to be far from home during this tough time.

“One of the dads mentioned he would do anything to be able to stay with his family,” said Gossen. “It's really difficult to realize again and again what happened and that they're really gone.”

Gossen feels it’s important to know who is responsible for the hit-and-run, even though it’s not her focus.

“It helps close the pain.”

Help the families of the victims

A fund has also been set up to help with medical expenses. Donations can be made to the "Raisa and Irina memorial fund" at any Key Bank location.

KATU's Lincoln Graves contributed to this story. Watch KATU News starting at 4 p.m. for the latest.