No Plea Agreement In Crash That Killed Correctional Officer
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UPDATED 03/14/12 1:02 p.m.
CROWN POINT, Ind. (CBS) — A guilty plea had been expected Wednesday morning, but no agreement was ultimately reached, in a hit-and-run crash that left a correctional officer dead last week in Crown Point, Ind.
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, a hearing was requested by accused hit-and-run driver Jason Cozmanoff, 42, who was hit with additional charges Tuesday of one count of reckless homicide and three counts of criminal recklessness.
Cozmanoff had been expected to plead guilty at the hearing. But it ended with no plea agreement, WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports
Cozmanoff appeared to be crying in court, as he stood sniffing with his head bowed.
At the hearing, prosecutors read the latest charges against Cozmanoff. Afterward, the judge entered a gag order, forbidding anyone – be it Sheriff John Buncich, prosecutors or defense attorneys – from talking about the case.
It was not clear why the guilty plea was not entered Wednesday.
Meux’s mother walked out of the criminal courthouse in tears. She asked for privacy and was escorted away by a sheriff’s police officer.
Several other relatives of Meux were also in court, but declined to comment on camera. Only one of Meux’s friends spoke after the hearing.
“She was a really nice person – I know that much,” the friend said. “I went to school with her, and she was very nice, and I thought it was wrong, what happened today.”
Prosecutors say the unemployed bricklayer confessed he was the one behind the wheel of the sport-utility vehicle that barreled into four correctional officers as they jogged in around the Lake County, Ind., Government Center in a training exercise.
WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports Lake County Sheriff John Buncich says it will be difficult to determine whether Cozmanoff was drunk at the time of the crash. But he said authorities are awaiting forensic testing on blood inside Cozmanoff’s SUV, which investigators say he was driving at a rate of 65 mph at the time of the crash.
Britney Meux, 25, was killed instantly. The others – David Murchek, 26; Latasha Johnson, 34; and Delano Scaife, 22 — were seriously injured, but survived.
Meux was laid to rest in Gary, Ind., on Monday. She received full police honors for her three years of service to the Lake County Sheriff’s office.
Family, friends and fellow Indiana officers gathered at her gravesite.
Meux’s mother and sisters kept a stroller close by, with Meux’s 5 1/2-month-old daughter, Savannah.
Also present at the funeral were two of the three survivors – Murchek in a wheelchair and Johnson in a sling. Scaife remains hospitalized.
Charges against Cozmanoff were upgraded on Tuesday. He had already faced one count of failure to stop after an accident resulting in death and three charges of failure to stop after an accident resulting in serious bodily injury.
With the upgraded charges, officials say Cozmanoff could face up to 49 years in prison.
He is due back in court on May 8.