Bail set at $100,000 in Highway 14 fatality

Portland man allegedly fled scene after passenger fell out of his Mercedes

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: August 23, 2011, 6:01 PM

 

A driver who allegedly abandoned a mortally injured passenger who had fallen from a moving convertible made his first appearance Tuesday morning in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of felony hit and run.

Judge Rich Melnick set bail at $100,000 for Russell H. Amon, 29, after hearing about his slew of prior traffic-related offenses.

Amon has several prior driving while suspended convictions, as well as a driving under the influence and attempt to elude police convictions.

“The seriousness of the case is such that you fled from the scene and have two failure to appears,” Melnick said before imposing bail.

When asked if he needs a court-appointed attorney, Amon, who drives a Mercedes convertible but lives in a trailer park in Jantzen Beach and receives food stamps, told the judge he expects to retain his own lawyer.

“My intentions are to retain Beau Harlan,” he said.

The judge set arraignment for Sept. 2.

Troopers allege Amon was driving a champagne-colored Mercedes when passenger Jose C. Gonzalez-Ramirez, 34, fell out of the car about 3 p.m. Saturday. The accident occurred on Highway 14 east of Washougal.

Deputy Prosecutor Mike Dodds said Gonzalez-Ramirez and a second-passenger were standing up in the back of the top-down convertible waving at cars. The defendant began passing cars when Gonzalez-Ramirez fell out and hit his head.

Gonzalez-Ramirez died at the scene.

Dodds said witnesses saw Amon perform a U-turn and circle back toward his passenger and then accelerate away toward Vancouver. Witnesses reported that the victim saw the defendant drive by and tried to wave to him, Dodds said.

Troopers in earlier reports said alcohol was a factor.

A man, who said he was one of the motorists who stopped to render aid to Gonzalez-Ramirez, attended the hearing out of curiosity. He said the situation was one of the most horrific that he’s ever encountered. He declined to give his name.

While he did not see Gonzalez-Ramirez fall from the car, he said he saw the driver make the U-turn. He stopped his car on the side of the road, turning on his emergency flashers. He then joined several others tending to the victim.

It was too late, though, he said.

“I’ve been in Vietnam, and this is a close second,” he said outside the courtroom.

Laura McVicker: 360-735-4516; laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; www.twitter.com/col_courts; www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker.