Man charged with 2nd-degree murder in Trooper Bava's death
AUDRAIN COUNTY – Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers arrested a Mexico man Monday in connection with the August death of Trooper James Bava.
Audrain County Prosecuting Attorney Jacob Shellabarger said he filed charges against 20-year-old Serghei Comerzan, and troopers arrested Comerzan around 10 a.m.
Shellabarger charged Comerzan with second-degree murder, resisting a lawful stop, resisting a member of the Missouri State Highway Patrol in discharge of his official duties, careless and imprudent driving, exceeding the speed limit and failure to register a motor vehicle with the Department of Revenue.
“This weekend, I met with the Bava family and informed them of my charging decisions,” Shellabarger said. “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 probable cause statement said Bava clocked a motorcycle driving 105 miles per hour on Missouri Route FF around 8:30 a.m. Aug. 28. Bava notified Troop F radio personnel he would try to find the motorcycle.
The statement said Troop F radio personnel notified Corporal S. A. Ballard, who was in the area.
At 8:35 a.m., after two attempts to reach Bava by radio and one attempt by cell phone, Audrain County 911 dispatch told Troop F it had received two emergency calls from drivers reporting a wrecked patrol car on Missouri Route FF.
At 8:42 a.m., witnesses reported seeing a body near the wrecked patrol car.
The probable cause statement said Ballard went with the Troop C Major Crash Investigation Unit and other officers to investigate the crash.
Ballard found two eyewitnesses working in the area at the time of the crash.
“We heard a street bike coming. You could tell he was flying,” one witness said. “We heard the sirens. We came outside and heard metal scraping pavement like he bottomed out. I saw the car go into the tree line. It flipped, rolled and burst into flames.”
Another witness said he was working in the attic of a new house on Highway FF when he heard the motorcycle.
“Then I heard sirens coming so I stepped outside and seen the State Highway Patrol car coming, chasing the motorcycle,” the witness said. “When the patrol car come over the hill it sounded like it went airborne then hit the pavement again. Then I seen it hitting the trees and engulfed in flames and parts flying back across the road.”
The statement said a few witnesses were able to describe the motorcycle, which helped investigators match the motorcycle to Comerzan.
While being interviewed, Comerzan denied being on Missouri Route FF at first. He later admitted he was on Missouri Route FF and was the rider on the motorcycle.
Comerzan said his motorcycle was fast and he could “easily outrun a cop” if he wanted to.
Shellabarger said a judge set Comerzan’s bond at $100,000 cash-only.