Adventist Health Sonora Doctor Accused of Hit-and-Run that Killed Nurse
- James Leonard Comazzi is accused of killing a nurse in a hit-and-run. Comazzi has pleaded not guilty.
- Comazzi’s arrest was the latest in a string of recent arrests of medical professionals that had worked for Adventist Health Sonora.
- Police noted parallels to case of Danny Anderson, also a doctor from Sonora who had also attended Loma Linda University School of Medicine, who was also accused of a deadly hit-and-run. He was found guilty.
22 December 2021 | James Leonard Comazzi, 68, who worked as a cardiologist at Adventist Health Sonora at the time pleaded not guilty Dec. 16, 2021, to a hit-and-run that killed a 26-year-old nurse who had stopped to help others on a highway in California, United States, according to a Dec. 20, 2021, Union Democrat article.
Comazzi, a graduate of Loma Linda University School of Medicine (LLU), is accused of hitting with his car and killing Juliana Ramos on Feb. 10, 2021, as she aided the victim of an accident on Highway 99 in Fresno County, reported the Union Democrat on Oct. 6, 2021.
Ramos, a nurse, stopped her car in the median and was attending to the victim of a crash between a big rig and a Hyundai Elantra. The Hyundai driver had major injuries.
“Ramos exited her vehicle and without hesitation, went to assist the injured driver still seated in his vehicle,” said the news release announcing Comazzi’s arrest.
Then, according to the release, a red SUV drove between the Hyundai and Ramos’ vehicle, hitting Ramos and killing her.
Ramos’ 4-month-old baby was still in the car when she was hit by the red SUV, according to a KTLA article.
A news release from the California Highway Patrol (CHP) said the male driver of the red SUV momentarily stopped and exited his vehicle, then got back inside and drove away from the scene without rendering aid, leaving any identifying information or calling for assistance.
Police received an anonymous tip in April 2021 that led investigators to Comazzi’s home in Sonora, California, where they found the red SUV involved in the crash. Comazzi was arrested in October 2021 and booked into the Fresno County Jail.
“If it wasn’t for the tip from Valley Crime Stoppers [an anonymous tip line and nonprofit organization that offers rewards related to crime in California’s Central Valley], this was a case that would have definitely taken much longer, if it got any result at all,” CHP Sgt. Ryan Murakoshi said.
The Medical Board of California is trying to suspend Comazzi’s medical license while the criminal case continues.
“Our position is that Dr. Comazzi poses a threat to the public and should not be practicing medicine,” said Marianne Pansa with the state Attorney General’s office.
Comazzi received his medical license on July 10, 1979, following graduation from Loma Linda University School of Medicine in 1978, according to the Medical Board of California.
His license is for a physician and surgeon, and expires on May 31, 2023. There’s no record of disciplinary or malpractice actions against Comazzi’s license.
Adventist Health Sonora spokeswoman Jaquelyn Lugg said that Comazzi is currently unable to see patients at this time, when asked if he is still employed by the hospital and seeing patients.
The hospital’s medical staff is currently following a confidential peer review process as laid out by the staff’s bylaws, Lugg said, though she added that the hospital was not at liberty to comment further.
“While we cannot disclose details, we can assure our community that we have taken all steps to protect our patients and staff,” she said in an email statement.
Comazzi’s arrest follows a string of reported criminal behavior from medical professionals that worked at Adventist Health Sonora.
Joseph Pineda Pimentel, 37, a former surgical technician, was arrested in September 2021 on suspicion of multiple rapes in Sonora and the Central Valley.
Heidi Butler, 39, a former nurse, was arrested at her Sonora home in September 2020 on suspicion of attempting to hire a hitman to murder her husband.
“None of the allegations in these cases align with our values as a healthcare organization, and we take them very seriously,” Lugg said. “Adventist Health conducts extensive background checks and takes action as appropriate.”
Murakoshi said the arrest of Danny Anderson was mentioned “in passing” by Sonora investigators as a hit-and-run involving a doctor prior to Comazzi’s arrest.
Anderson, who was also a doctor in Sonora, had also attended Loma Linda University School of Medicine in 1975, a few years before Comazzi. He was convicted by a jury of three counts of vehicular manslaughter, hit-and-run resulting in serious injury and reckless driving related to a October 2016 crash that killed three people and injured three others.
Anderson was found guilty in July 2018 and sentenced to five years, four months in prison before he was released on parole in July 2020.
(Photo: James Leonard Comazzi is seen in his CHP booking photo. Comazzi is accused of killing a nurse in a hit-and-run in February 2021. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in December 2021. Photo via screenshot.)
This report has been updated.