DUNDALK, Md. (WJZ)—Fourteen years after a 24-year-old woman was murdered in her Dundalk townhome, Baltimore County Police have arrested and charged her boyfriend with hiring a hitman to kill her.
Police suspected from the beginning that Stephen Michael Cooke Jr., 43, conspired to kill his live-in girlfriend Heidi Bernadzikowski but weren’t able to prove it.
A breakthrough came through when one of the co-conspirators — Alexander Charles Bennett, 34, of Greeley, Colo.– identified Cooke as the person behind the murder.
“We have been seeking justice in this case for a long time,” said Police Chief Jim Johnson in a release. “Our homicide detectives deserve credit for never giving up on these cold cases. They never forget these victims and their families, and they tirelessly pursue leads over many years. This time, their work has paid off.”
Bennett was charged with first-degree murder in January 2012 after police discovered DNA evidence linking him to the crime. The investigation shows that Cooke hired Bennett and another conspirator, Grant A. Lewis, also of Colorado, to kill Bernadzikowski.
The investigation shows that Cooke contacted Bennett and Lewis via the Internet and entered into a murder-for-hire agreement with them. Lewis was the middle man and remained in Colorado; Bennett traveled to Maryland and committed the murder, strangling Bernadzikowski and cutting her throat.
Police believe Cooke wanted to collect a $700,000 insurance policy he had purchased on Bernadzikowski months earlier.
Cooke was arrested in Anne Arundel County and is held without bail at the Baltimore County Detention Center.
Lewis, 35, was arrested in Baltimore this week and is charged with conspiracy to commit murder. He is held without bail at BCDC.
Bennett is in the Baltimore County Detention Center, awaiting trial.
Homicide detectives do not believe there are any additional suspects in this case.
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