Lakes of the Four Seasons man charged in fatal hit-and-run of correctional officers

2012-03-09T18:00:00Z 2012-03-12T20:00:37Z Lakes of the Four Seasons man charged in fatal hit-and-run of correctional officersBy Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com

CROWN POINT | A Lakes of the Four Seasons man is facing felony hit-and-run charges but is not yet being prosecuted for the homicide of the Lake County correctional officer he is accused of hitting Tuesday night.

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said Friday the family of Britney Meux is "distraught" that Jason Cozmanoff, 42, isn't facing more serious charges for her death and severe injuries to three of her colleagues.

Police said Cozmanoff was driving his father's 2002 Yukon when he ran the officers over as they jogged alongside 93rd Avenue near Main Street on Tuesday night as part of their training routine. Correctional Officers David Murchek, Latasha Johnson and Delano Scaife survived the incident.

Buncich said he assured Meux's family the department is continuing to look into the incident and Cozmanoff's role in pursuit of more serious charges once more evidence is available.

Cozmanoff, who has been incarcerated since he surrendered Wednesday and could remain in jail until his bond hearing Monday, faces up to 17 years in prison if convicted of all four counts of failure to stop after an accident resulting in death and serious bodily injury.

Buncich said Cozmanoff has refused to talk to police about the incident on advice of his lawyer, but police have spent "a very emotional 72 hours" piecing together evidence of the crime.

Police said they found the 2002 Yukon inside the garage of the Lakes of the Four Seasons home where father and son lived. Buncich said police have questioned the father and haven't ruled out charging him with failing to come forward. Police said the father denies having driven the car recently.

Lake Criminal Court papers filed with the charges provided new details of the investigation.

Cozmanoff's estranged wife called police the day after the defendant surrendered to say Cozmanoff "called (her) and made explicit statements to (her) admitting that he was the one who struck the four correctional officers."

Police allege the Yukon's airbag control module indicated the car was being driven at full throttle and traveling about 77 mph only six seconds before impact. The driver closed the throttle one second before the accident, but the car was still traveling at 65 mph.

Police found shattered glass inside the vehicle and garage as well as shards embedded in Cozmanoff's clothing and sunglasses. They found a stain that could be blood on Cozmanoff's pants.

Court records showed Meux suffered a broken back, spinal injury and a broken left leg. Murchek, who suffered two broken feet, and Johnson, whose arm was broken, have been released from the hospital. Scaife, who received a severe arm injury, remains hospitalized and awaiting more surgery.

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.

He was moved to Porter County Jail after being formally charged Friday, Lake County police spokeswoman Patti Van Til said.

"Because of the charged emotions of our correctional staff, we thought it would be better if he wasn't in our facility," she said.

Times staff writer Lindsay Machak contributed to this report.

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