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Police search for B-N suspect Michael Bakana after he fails to show up for his murder trial

Michael Bakana failed to show up for his murder trial Monday morning. Bloomington Police say he's wanted and considered armed and dangerous.
Bloomington Police
Michael Bakana failed to show up for his murder trial Monday morning. Bloomington Police say he's wanted and considered armed and dangerous.

Authorities say a Normal man failed to show up for the start of his murder trial Monday and is now on the run – and considered armed and dangerous. Several schools in Normal were briefly put on a heightened security status as a result.

Michael Bakana, 44, is accused of fatally shooting Mariah C. Petracca, 22, of Bloomington, and injuring a second person. That shooting happened in January 2021 in downtown Bloomington.

Bakana posted $200,000 to be released on bond in October as he awaited trial. That trial was set to begin Monday at the McLean County Law and Justice Center.

But Bakana “failed to appear and cut off his court-ordered GPS ankle bracelet. His whereabouts are unknown, and he may have fled the Bloomington-Normal area,” Bloomington Police said in a statement Monday morning.

The murder trial has been delayed until 9 a.m. Tuesday, in hopes of locating Bakana. The judge will take up the issue of whether to start without him at that time.

Defense lawyer Clyde Guilamo opposed a request from prosecutors to try Bakana in absentia because he's claiming self-defense. Under the law, Bakana has to be at the trial to explain his reasons for self-defense.

There is now a no-cash warrant issued for Bakana's arrest. He will forfeit the money he has posted. Bakana was at Thursday’s final pre-trial hearing.

Bakana's case comes as Illinois residents await a ruling from the state Supreme Court this year on the pretrial detention provisions of the SAFE-T Act criminal justice reform, including the end of cash bail.

“The reality is, no system is perfect. Even under the no-cash bail system, there’s no guarantee a person will be held, no guarantee the state can meet its burden under those standards," said Erika Reynolds, the McLean County state's attorney.

The circumstances for holding a defendant without bail under current law are limited, said the prosecutor. Absent a convincing argument that the person is a serious flight risk or threat to public safety, a defendant with enough money will likely be released.

Kirk Zimmerman, a Bloomington man charged with killing his ex-wife, was the last defendant released on bond on murder charges. He was acquitted at a 2019 trial.

Heightened school security

In Unit 5, Normal West, Parkside Junior High, and Parkside Elementary School were put on "secure" status Monday morning at the request of the police, which means that all students remained inside and doors were locked. That secure status has since been lifted. Heartland Community College in Normal announced a "soft lockdown" just after 10:30 a.m., but that was lifted by 11 a.m.

Normal Police told WGLT that they advised Unit 5 schools about a fugitive in that area, and that a GPS tracking device was recovered.

Bakana is described as a Black man, 5-foot-8, 145 pounds, with short black hair and brown eyes. He speaks with a heavy foreign accent. If spotted, do not approach Bakana. Instead, call 911 and report your sighting to your local law enforcement agency. You can also send anonymous tips via your smartphone by texting the number 847411 and the word “BPDTIPS,” then a space, followed by your tip information.

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
Edith Brady-Lunny was a correspondent at WGLT, joining the station in 2019. She left the station in 2024.