News & Features

No Charges for Fatal Stabbing in Drug Deal Gone Bad

Officials say physical evidence and witness statements are 'consistent (with self-defense)'

MISSOULA — No homicide charges will be filed for a fatal stabbing in Missoula after an investigation found the stabbing was done in self-defense after the victim assaulted and tried to steal drugs from the suspect, police said.

Joshua Michael Paniagua, 18, was arrested Tuesday on a warrant charging him with criminal distribution of dangerous drugs and tampering with evidence following the New Year’s Day death of Benjamin Mousso, 18, of Hamilton. No court date has been set for Paniagua.

An investigation found Mousso and two others conspired to steal marijuana from Paniagua by offering to trade it for methamphetamine. However, they did not have any meth, court records said.

Paniagua, accompanied by his mother, told police he had agreed to trade marijuana for meth on Jan. 1. He said Mousso punched him seven or eight times in the bathroom before he pulled out his knife to protect himself, court records said. Mousso was stabbed four times, police said.

“We had statements from the two other people involved, as well as a statement from Mr. Paniagua and of course the physical evidence found at the scene, and all of that was consistent (with self-defense),” interim Police Chief Mike Colyer said.