23 Aug 2014
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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.

After 14 Years, Boyfriend Charged With Hiring Dundalk Woman's Killers 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."

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