State, defense rest their cases in third day of Comerzan trial

A crash investigator testified in the third day of the Serghei Comerzan trial. (Pool image)

The state and defense rested their cases Wednesday in the trial of a man accused of killing a state trooper.

Two investigators and a systems administrator with the Missouri State Highway Patrol testified as the state wrapped up its case in the third day of Serghei Comerzan's trial.

The 22-year-old was charged with second-degree murder and resisting arrest in the death of Trooper James Bava in August 2015.

The Highway Patrol's enterprise system administrator, Harold Burnette, testified Bava was traveling up to 144 mph while making a radio call in the moments leading up to the crash. Bava made the first radio transmission going 139 mph, and ended the transmssion at 144 mph, according to Burnette.

GPS technology tracks the latitude, longitude, position, speed, date and time of each patrol vehicle, Burnette said.

Crash investigators testified Bava was going westbound on Highway FF before making a sudden turn to go eastbound in pursuit of Comerzan.

GPS technology indicated Bava traveled 2.2 miles before crashing on FF.

Master Sgt. Marcus Reynolds testified alongside Bava's death certificate and videos to see the rearview of FF on the route Comerzan took.

In cross-examination, Reynolds testified investigators didn't have evidence Comerzan heard Bava's siren or see Bava's lights.

Comerzan's attorney, Charles James, kept asking Reynolds in cross examination what evidence the state had that Comerzan saw Bava. Reynolds said multiple times, witness statements indicated Comerzan was seen turning around and looking behind him while speeding on his motorcycle that day. James had the court's reporter reread his question, to which Reynolds once again, referred to witness statements.

A crash investigator testified Bava and Comerzan were in view of each other between two hill crests on the west side of FF.

Sgt. Paul Meyers testified Comerzan would had to have been traveling 216 mph between the two western hill crests for Bava to be out of sight. He said according to studies and online searches, Comerzan's motorcyle reaches top speed at160 mph. Meyers also testified Bava and Comerzan were likely within each other's field of view for about seven seconds before approaching one of the hill crests on FF.

The defense questioned the investigation, which had been reconstructed through data and witness statements, and through the assumption Comerzan maintained a speed of 105 mph the entire stretch of the course. That speed is what Bava had said over his radio transmission in reference to Comerzan. Meyers said investigators also used average data collected in test runs of the scenario.

"Bava had one shot," said Comerzan's attorney, John James. "Averages don't matter when it happens one time."

In cross examination, Meyers testified there was no evidence Comerzan was looking back.

Reynolds said he was skeptical about Comerzan's claim he took his motorcycle to a friend's house in Millersburg the night of the crash for cosmetic work. In cross examination, the defense showed text messages between Comerzan and the friend from August 17, nine days before the deadly crash, discussing the cosmetic work.

After the state rested its case Wednesday afternoon, the defense called three witnesses to the stand, including Sgt. Charles Day, who trains troopers at the highway patrol's emergency driving school.

Day testified, a patrol car's siren is less effective the faster the speed. When drivers are going between 50 and 60 mph, drivers might not hear the siren from two car lengths away. He said surrounding sounds can dissipate the sound of a siren.

On cross examination, prosecutors confirmed with Day that sirens aren't the only way to get a traffic offender's attention. The state maintained, Bava had his switch for lights and sirens in the most effective position at the time of the crash.

Day told jurors if a trooper gets involved in a chase, he or she is supposed to call into the troop and indicate there is a pursuit. Day said at that point, troop staff would usually supervise the chase. "When the trooper doesn't have sight and feels like they should terminate [the pursuit], they are no longer in emergency mode," Day said.

Day also told jurors troopers are taught to use radio traffic when it's safe, typically not on hilly areas and curves. The stretch of FF discussed in the trial has a total of seven hills.

Comerzan's friend, Tyler Minor, was another witness the defense called to the stand. Minor provided testimony on a picture and video of a tree that had fallen on Comerzan's motorcycle before the morning of the crash.

The defense's final witness, David Nelson, testified Comerzan's motorcycle was as loud as a crop dusting airplane. Nelson testified he lives just north of FF. He said as the sound of Comerzan's motorcycle faded, he started to hear sirens coming from the same direction.

The state called 21 total witnesses for its case over the stretch of three days, the defense rested its case after about an hour.

After opening statements Thursday, Judge Ted House is expected to give jurors instructions and clarification on Comerzan's charges.

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