The case of the State vs. Sergei Comerzan was dismissed then re-filed last week in Audrain County as a new judge will also take over the case.
On October 5, Audrain County Prosecuting Attorney Jacob Shellabarger officially re-filed charges against the 21-year-old in the death of Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper James M. Bava. The late Trooper Bava was killed while on duty after a crash on August 28, 2015.
Bond was set at $50,000 and Comerzan is expected to post it. He will be able to drive an automobile or truck from his places of employment if licensed, insured, legally registered, and legally able to do so. He is not permitted to drive for any other purposes and is not allowed to operate a motorcycle.
He is expected to also be arraigned on his charges in Division Two of the Circuit Court of Audrain County at a later date.
“Although this case was scheduled for trial next week in Montgomery County, it is in the best interests of the State and in the interest of justice that this case be re-filed,” Shellabarger said in a press release. “This decision was made in consultation with the family of James Bava, and made with their input. The ethical obligations of a prosecutor require me to remind media members and the community that these charges are accusations and that all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
An official Probable Cause Statement includes a summary of the events leading up to the crash that killed the late Trooper Bava in 2015.
When in his patrol car, observed Comerzan to be speeding on his motorcycle on Highway FF in southwestern Audrain County, then began to pursue him. Comerzan reportedly fled from Trooper Bava in a dangerous fashion at a high rate of speed, passing other vehicles and looking behind himself for Trooper Bava. During his pursuit of Comerzan, Trooper Bava’s Dodge Charger left Highway FF, struck a ditch, a fence, and some trees, then caught fire. Trooper Bava was killed in the crash. The investigation led to numerous witnesses who saw a motorcycle and the operator matching Comerzan’s motorcycle and his body type and clothing during the time period of the crash and in its aftermath, fleeing the area.
The charges are as follows:
• Count One: Murder in the Second Degree – Murder in the Commission of a Felony. This is a Class A Felony, punishable from 10 years to life imprisonment. In the alternative, the State has charged Involuntary Manslaughter in the First Degree for Causing the Death of an Authorized Operator of an Emergency Vehicle, which is a Class B Felony, punishable from five to 15 years imprisonment.
• Count Two: Resisting a Lawful Stop – Creating a Substantial Risk of Serious Injury or Death. This is a Class D Felony, punishable from one day up to one year in the County Jail or one year up to four years in the Missouri Department of Corrections, and/or a fine of up to $5,000. The State has filed this count in the alternative as well.
• Count Three: Resisting a Member of the Missouri State Highway Patrol in Discharge of His Official Duties. This is a Misdemeanor, punishable from one day up to one year in the County Jail, and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
• Count Four: Careless and Imprudent Driving. This is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable from one day up to six months in the County Jail, and/or a fine of up to $500.
• Count Five: Exceeding the Speed Limit. This is a Class B misdemeanor, with the same range of punishment as Count Four.
• Count Six: Failure to Register a Motor Vehicle with the Department of Revenue. This is a Class B misdemeanor, with the same range of punishment as Count Four.”
“Mr. Comerzan will be scheduled for arraignment after his arrest in an expedient fashion and will appear on an arraignment docket of the Associate Circuit Court of Audrain County at the Courthouse in Mexico at a date of the Court’s choosing,” Shellabarger said.
“I met with the Bava family and informed them of my charging decisions. While nothing will bring back James, the family wishes to acknowledge that the criminal case process will hopefully bring accountability to the man responsible for his death. The family has asked me to inform the media that they will not make any further statements in this case as the criminal case is now pending. Also, I am asking the media to respect the privacy of the Bava family during this time and allow them to continue to grieve in their own way and in their own time. My sympathy and the thoughts and prayers of many in our community and across our State and country are with the Bava family and the greater law enforcement community after Trooper Bava’s death. Because the criminal case has been filed and is pending adjudication, I have asked that there be no further statements to the media from law enforcement agents or witnesses in this case. This includes my office. Other than the publicly available information from the Missouri Courts Case.net system, I am unable to provide any updates, provide further information, or comment publicly on this case not only ethically, but out of respect for Mr. Comerzan’s right to a fair, public trial, and out of respect for the Bava family’s wishes. The ethical obligations of a prosecutor require me to remind media members and the community that these charges are accusations and that all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”