3+ years later, guilty plea in Bloomfield fatality

BLOOMFIELD —

On the night of Sept. 29, 2012, 16-year-old Christina Lembo, a soccer star at Bloomfield High School, was riding with friends in a Honda Civic on Broughton Ave., less than a block from her home, when their vehicle was struck by a speeding Chevy Camaro.

Lembo, a passenger in the back seat of the Civic, did not survive.

Last week, the Camaro driver, Nicholas Comasco of Bloomfield, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide, Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray announced.

Comasco, now 27, entered the plea Wednesday, April 13, before Judge Verna G. Leath in Superior Court in Newark, admitting that he had been drinking beer and driving at speeds of up to 80 mph just before he struck the Civic. Broughton Ave. had a speed limit of 25 mph.

In addition to killing Lembo, the crash caused severe injuries to the Civic’s front-seat passenger, a 17-year-old male who sustained a broken back, authorities said.

Under the terms of a plea agreement, Comasco is expected to be sent to state prison for three years when he is sentenced June 6. Under the No Early Release Act, he must serve 85% of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.

”The plea by Nicholas Comasco to vehicle homicide constitutes an admission by him that his criminal conduct in driving his car in a criminally reckless manner caused the death of 16-year-old Christina Lembo,’’ said Assistant Prosecutor Eileen O’Connor, who handled the case with Assistant Prosecutor Joseph Giordano.

In addition, to the three-year sentence, Comasco will be on parole for three years after his release from prison and may have his license suspended for a period of time after his release, authorities said.

According to Murray’s office, if the case had gone to trial and Comasco were convicted, he would have faced a prison term of 5 to 10 years, “however, given the defendant’s lack of criminal history, he would likely have faced time on the lower end of that range.”

Of Comasco’s plea, O’Connor said, “While no amount of prison time can equate with the unspeakable loss and pain suffered by the Lembo family due to his criminal conduct, it is hoped that this admission by him and the punishment that will follow, will bring some small measure of closure to the Lembo family.’’

“Throughout this ordeal,” she added, “they have only sought justice and an acceptance of responsibility.’’

Giordano said, “What happened here was in no way an accident. It was, in fact, a crime, and our vehicular laws will and do punish conduct such as this.’’

— Karen Zautyk

Karen Zautyk | Observer Correspondent