UPDATE (September 26):
Baltimore County Police have charged 43-year-old Stephen Michael Cooke Jr with conspiracy to commit witness intimidation in connection with his trial on murder charges.
On April 20, 2000, the body of 24-year-old Heidi Bernadzikowski was found on her home in the 2000 block of Codd Avenue in Dundalk. The autopsy of her body concluded that the cause of death was strangulation and a cutting wound to her neck. The manner of death was homicide.
Detectives conducted a thorough investigation; however, they were not able to develop any information which led to the positive identification of a suspect and the case went cold.
In January 2012, detectives got the break they needed when evidence pointed to, Alexander Bennett (34). Further investigation led to the arrest of, Grant Lewis (35).
Homicide detectives never gave up on this case and in March of this year, the arrest of Bennett and Lewis provided the necessary link to also arrest Stephen Cooke, Heidi Bernadzikowski's boyfriend, for her murder.
Investigators later discovered that Stephen Cooke was attempting to hire another inmate at the Baltimore County Detention Center to harm Grant Lewis to prevent him from testifying. Stephen Cooke has been charged with conspiracy to commit witness intimidation and conspiracy to commit first degree assault. He is being held without bail on those charges.
Original release (March 21):
Fourteen years after the murder of 24-year-old Heidi Bernadzikowski in her Dundalk townhome, Baltimore County Police homicide detectives have arrested and charged her boyfriend with hiring someone to kill her.
This week, Stephen Michael Cooke Jr., 43, of the 1000 block of Englishman Harbour, Pasadena, 21122, was charged with first-degree murder. He was arrested in Anne Arundel County and is held without bail at the Baltimore County Detention Center.
Police have believed almost from the beginning of this case that Cooke -- who was the victim's boyfriend and lived with her in the 2000 block of Codd Avenue -- conspired to kill Ms. Bernadzikowski, but detectives have been unable to prove his involvement. A breakthrough came recently, when one of the co-conspirators -- Alexander Charles Bennett, 34, of Greeley, Colorado -- identified Cooke as the person behind the murder. 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. Cooke wanted to collect a $700,000 insurance policy he had purchased on the victim months earlier, police believe.
Lewis, 35, of the 2500 block of Locust Street, Denver, Co., was arrested in Baltimore this week and is charged with conspiracy to commit murder. He is held without bail at BCDC.
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, coordinating Bennett's actions; Bennett traveled to Maryland and committed the murder, strangling Bernadzikowski and cutting her throat.
Homicide detectives do not believe there are any additional suspects in this case.
"We have been seeking justice in this case for a long time," said Police Chief Jim Johnson. "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."
Photos of Suspects
Stephen Michael Cooke Jr.
Grant A. Lewis
Alexander Charles Bennett