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Michael Bakana convicted on all counts at Bloomington murder trial and later captured

 Judge Casey Costigan denied a defense request to allow the jury to consider second-degree murder charges, saying Michael Bakana’s absence precluded the defendant from confirming he wanted the lesser offense considered.
Clay Jackson
The Pantagraph (Pool)
Judge Casey Costigan denied a defense request to allow the jury to consider second-degree murder charges, saying Michael Bakana’s absence precluded the defendant from confirming he wanted the lesser offense considered.
Updated: May 12, 2023 at 5:28 PM CDT
Bloomington Police announced Michael Bakana was arrested Friday afternoon in Lexington, Kentucky, shortly after a McLean County jury convicted him of murder charges.

A Normal man who failed to attend his murder trial was convicted Friday in the January 2021 shooting that left one woman dead and a second critically injured.

Michael Bakana was at large as the verdict was delivered after the weeklong trial. A no-cash arrest warrant was issued when he did not show up on Monday for his trial.

Bloomington Police announced shortly after 5 p.m. Bakana was arrested without incident at about 4 p.m. in Lexington, Kentucky, by officers with the U.S. Marshals Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force.

A June 22 sentencing was scheduled.

Mariah Petracca, 22, died on the sidewalk outside Daddios, a bar in the 500 block of North Main Street. Her friend, now 26, was critically injured in the incident that started with angry words exchanged between the victims and Bakana as they waited in line to enter the bar.

After the verdicts, Stephen and Madeline Petracca, said they were pleased with the guilty verdicts of all counts.

“It means a lot that he was found guilty but it means nothing if he’s not behind bars,” said the victim’s mother.

Michael Bakana, right, is charged with murder in connection with the 2021 shooting of Mariah Petracca.
Clay Jackson / The Pantagraph (Pool)
Michael Bakana, right, is charged with murder in connection with the 2021 shooting of Mariah Petracca.

The 26-year-old surviving victim cried and was hugged by family members as the verdicts were read. They declined to comment afterwards.

In a statement after the verdict, State’s Attorney Erika Reynolds said, “Justice was reached on behalf of the two victims’ families.” She thanked police, prosecutors and bystanders who assisted with the case.

Added Assistant State’s Attorney Jeff Horve, who tried the case: “This is justice for the victims and an appropriate verdict based on the evidence.”

Defense lawyer Clyde Guilamo said he respected the jury’s verdict but plans to file post-trial motions asking the judge to reconsider his decision to reject second-degree murder as a possible verdict option.

“It begs the question, what would the jury have done had they gotten the second-degree instruction?” said Guilamo, noting that Bakana faces what amounts to a life sentence, 20 to 60 years for murder, with 15 years added for the discharge of a firearm.

Bakana’s family “is saddened by the verdicts,” said Guilamo. The lawyer declined to say if he has had contact with his missing client. He said he has “no indication” if Bakana will be at the sentencing in June.

Defense lawyers Guilamo and Sean Brown argued that Bakana was afraid of the women and acted in self-defense after he was spit on, thrown against a wall and had his phone knocked from his hand by the women.

Prosecutors Horve and David Fitt asked jurors to reject the self-defense claims and consider what may have been multiple opportunities to walk away from the negative exchange with the victims. At one point, Bakana walked to his car parked nearby, in an effort to cool off, he told police.

When he came back to the sidewalk, Bakana could have joined his friend inside the bar or otherwise avoided the women, Fitt argued in closing remarks. Instead, he reengaged the women on the sidewalk, said Fitt, referring to activity captured on the police video.

“Self-defense breaks down when he follows them,” said Fitt.

Closing arguments

Bakana had other options the night he pulled a gun from his waistband and fired 10 rounds at the two women, prosecutors said during closing arguments Friday.

“This is about rage and retribution. He didn’t have to shoot those girls 10 times to defend himself,” Horve told jurors in the state’s final comments in the trial.

Horve urged jurors to reject defense arguments that Bakana acted in self-defense after the surviving victim insulted his deceased father and spit on him and Petracca shoved him against a brick wall.

The argument that started after one of the women attempted to cut in line at Daddios in order to retrieve her phone escalated, Bakana told police. Bakana was waiting at the end of the line to enter the bar on his first night out during the pandemic, a night that also marked the one-month anniversary of his father’s death. The defendant claims he told the women they should wait their turn in line and was met with insults from one of the women, including profanity directed at his father.

Horve said the insults against the father fueled a rage in Bakana that was evident in his interview with police two hours after the shooting.

“During that interview you could feel his anger for this insult towards his father,” said the prosecutor.

Guilamo opened his remarks with a reminder to jurors that Bakana was presumed innocent and had no obligation to prove his innocence. “So what if Mr. Bakana is not here?” he said.

Alcohol, hatred, and violence were responsible for the shooting, said Guilamo.

The woman who was wounded “spews hatred,” said Guilamo, until her drunken remarks about his father strike a nerve with the defendant.

“She’s inciting violence. She’s threatening him,” the lawyer argued.

Bakana was twice the victim of a crime as he stood on the sidewalk, said Guilamo. The defense contends that when the woman spit on Bakana, knocked his phone from his hands and her friend shoved him, they committed crimes.

In his rebuttal arguments for the state, prosecutor Fitt acknowledged that the surviving victim was insulting, mean and drunk during the encounter. “She’s a drunken fool. She doesn’t deserve to be executed,” said Fitt.

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Edith began her career as a reporter with The DeWitt County Observer, a weekly newspaper in Clinton. From 2007 to June 2019, Edith covered crime and legal issues for The Pantagraph, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois. She previously worked as a correspondent for The Pantagraph covering courts and local government issues in central Illinois.
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