New Charges Against Man Awaiting Trial In Murder-For-Hire Plot

DUNDALK, Md. (WJZ) — Witness intimidation–behind bars. A man awaiting trial for his girlfriend’s murder is hit with new charges. Baltimore County Police say he tried to hire a fellow inmate to silence a witness in the case.

Christie Ileto has more on this plot.

Stephen Cooke Junior is already behind bars for the 2000 murder-for-hire plot of then-girlfriend, Heidi Bernadzikowski. But Friday, new charges are tacking on to his rap sheet.

“Mr. Cooke, while in the Baltimore County Detention Center, was attempting to hire another inmate to cause harm to a co-defendant in the murder trial to prevent that co-defendant from testifying against him,” said Cpl. John Wachter, Baltimore County Police.

Police say Grant Lewis was Cooke’s target. He was one of the two men hired to kill Heidi. The Bernadzikowskis tell WJZ the new charges are a positive aspect of his upcoming trial.

“We are grateful they have arrested three people and for all of the detectives who worked to solve this case,” they said. “We are waiting patiently for the trials that will bring justice to Heidi.”

“She used to go to work and come in, and that was about it,” said neighbor Reginald Evelyn.

Evelyn remembers the 14-year-old case. He still lives on Codd Avenue in Dundalk, where the murder-for-hire happened. Cooke went to great lengths to hide his involvement, but witness intimidation has long plagued Maryland streets.

“When he called the police I said, ‘Oh god, Carl, what did you do?'” Marge Shipley said.

Shipley’s son, Carl Lackl, was gunned down in 2006 just before he was set to testify in a murder case. And a 2002 firebomb killed seven members of the Dawson family after Angela Dawson repeatedly called police about drug dealers in her neighborhood.

But Cooke’s plans were foiled before they were carried out. Now he will have his day in court.

Cooke is now charged with conspiracy to commit witness intimidation.

It took until this year for police to connect Cooke to Heidi’s murder. DNA evidence linked one of the hired men to the crime. He implicated Cooke.

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