Homicide charge among new counts in hit-and-run that killed Lake Co. Jail officer

2012-03-13T19:30:00Z 2013-12-12T13:58:13Z Homicide charge among new counts in hit-and-run that killed Lake Co. Jail officerBy Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com

CROWN POINT | The Lake County prosecutor's office charged a Lakes of the Four Seasons man Tuesday with four more felony counts, including reckless homicide of a corrections officer laid to rest Monday.

Jason Cozmanoff, 42, is charged with the reckless homicide of Officer Britney Meux and criminal recklessness that resulted in the serious bodily injury of three fellow corrections officers, said Patti Van Til, a spokeswoman for county police.

Cozmanoff now faces a maximum penalty of 32 years if convicted of the March 6 hit-and-run.

The new charges come one day after Cozmanoff's attorney said his client never intended to hurt anyone.

Sheriff John Buncich praised the work of county police investigators who have been working the case for a week and promised they would gather still more evidence "to secure even more severe charges against Cozmanoff," Van Til said.

Cozmanoff is scheduled to appear Wednesday morning before Lake Criminal Court Judge Salvador Vasquez.

Cozmanoff, who has been in custody since he surrendered a week ago, was expected to bond out of jail Monday, but court records indicate he remained in custody.

Cozmanoff already has pleaded not guilty to four lesser felony counts of leaving the scene of an accident involving death and serious injury.

Police allege Cozmanoff was driving a 2002 Yukon on the night of March 6 when he struck the four officers as they jogged along 93rd Avenue near Main Street in Crown Point. Corrections Officers David Murchek, Latasha Johnson and Delano Scaife survived the impact but suffered severe injuries.

Court papers filed with the charges allege Cozmanoff's estranged wife called police two days after the crash to say he admitted he struck the four correctional officers.

Murchek told police the four officers were running in single file on the road's gravel fringe when they heard a car behind them accelerate. Police said the Yukon's airbag control module indicated the SUV was being driven at full throttle and traveling about 77 mph only six seconds before impact.

However, the driver throttled the engine down one second before the accident, although the car still was traveling at 65 mph, police said.

Buncich said that area was well-lighted. Police said they found a pair of sunglasses in Cozmanoff's home that he may have been wearing because shards from a broken passenger window were found embedded in the lenses.

Court records state Cozmanoff pleaded guilty in 2009 to a charge of public intoxication under a plea agreement in which the state dropped drunken driving charges in return for his undergoing alcohol abuse counseling.

Buncich said last week the delay between the crash and Cozmanoff's surrender made it unlikely police could determine whether drunken driving was involved.

Buncich said he is awaiting the results of forensic testing on what appears to be traces of body tissue or blood inside the car and blood on a pair of recently worn bluejeans found in the defendant's bedroom.

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