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After 14 Years, Boyfriend Charged With Hiring Dundalk Woman's Killers Over the Internet

Police say killers were hired over the internet.

Heidi Bernadzikowski was killed in her Dundalk home at 24 years old, 14 years ago. Now, Baltimore County Police say they have arrested her boyfriend with hiring someone to kill her.

Stephen Michael Cooke Jr., 43, of the 1000 block of Englishman Harbour in  Pasadena, was charged with first-degree murder, according to Baltimore County Police. He was arrested in Anne Arundel County and is held without bail at the Baltimore County Detention Center.

A breakthrough came recently, when one of the alleged co-conspirators -- Alexander Charles Bennett, 34, of Greeley, Colorado -- identified Cooke as the person behind the murder, police said. Bennett is in the Baltimore County Detention Center, awaiting trial.

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, according to police.

Cooke hired Bennett and another conspirator, Grant A. Lewis, also of Colorado, to kill Bernadzikowski, police said.

The motive: Police say Cooke wanted to collect a $700,000 insurance policy he had purchased on the victim months earlier.

According to police, 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.

"We have been seeking justice in this case for a long time," Police Chief Jim Johnson said in a statement. "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."

udahlgren March 22, 2014 at 10:03 AM
This guy was charged 1st degree in CO where he would get the death penalty; he probably made a deal to confess here so as not to be tried there until whatever sentence he receives here is over.
charles leigh March 22, 2014 at 10:07 AM
OK what do you all think should happen to the killer of the Dundalk girl.
Justin case March 22, 2014 at 11:01 AM
Just put them in general population in prison. Let his fellow inmates serve justice. They'll eat them alive. I'm sure though they will be considered "at risk" so they will serve their time in protective custody
Mariner March 22, 2014 at 11:03 AM
What should happen to this guy? The death penalty is certainly appropriate in cases such as this. I support the death penalty. However, the taxpayer is stuck with huge bills for years and years and has to fund the endless appeals, all the while the lawyers, the judges and the court system suck the taxpayer dry. It costs more to execute someone than to keep them in prison for life. I say life with no possibility of parole. I would further reduce the cost of such a life sentence by housing the condemned alone in a cell with no privileges whatsoever. He must remain in his cell 24/7 throughout his sentence with the exception of a 3 minute shower once or twice a week. Such prisoners would receive a meal only adequate enough to sustain life. Nothing fancy. No radio, no television, no weight room. No conjugal visits, no prison marriages.
Tea L March 22, 2014 at 02:41 PM
How did he get caught? Was it Maryland's routine DNA swabbing upon arrest for other suspected crime? (Which is also before US Supreme Court?). A few of the more important facts of the story ignored here.

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