BREAKING: Boyfriend charged in 2000 murder of Heidi Bernadzikowski
Friday, 21 March 2014 13:28
    Fourteen years after the murder of 24-year-old Heidi Bernadzikowski in her Codd Avenue townhome, Baltimore County homicide detectives have arrested and charged her boyfriend with hiring someone to kill her.
    Stephen Michael Cooke Jr., now of Pasadena, has been charged with first-degree murder. The 43-year-old suspect was arrested in Anne Arundel County and is being held without bail at the Baltimore County Detention Center.
    Police long suspected that Cooke, who was the victim’s boyfriend and lived with her on Codd Avenue, had conspired to kill his girlfriend; however, detectives were unable for years to assemble enough evidence to prove his involvement.     
    That changed after Alexander Charles Bennett was arrested in Colorado  in 2012  and charged with first-degree murder after police discovered DNA evidence linking him to the crime.
    Bennett, who is currently being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center awaiting trial, has since identified Cooke as being behind the murder.
    Police say Cooke hired Bennett and another conspirator, Grant A. Lewis, also of Colorado, to kill Bernadzikowski, and that Cooke wanted to collect a $700,000 insurance policy he had purchased on the victim months before her death.
    The insurance was the subject of a legal battle between Cooke and the Bernadzikowski family, which ended with both sides agreeing to split the insurance payment.
    Police gave no information about how Cooke’s arrest might affect that 2004 settlement. The so-called “slayer’s rule” bars someone who intentionally causes the death of the policy holder from collecting the insurance money.
    Lewis, 35, was arrested in Baltimore this week and is charged with conspiracy to commit murder. He, too, is being held without bail at Baltimore County Detention Center.
    Police allege that Cooke contacted Bennett and Lewis over the Internet and arranged a murder-for-hire agreement with them. Lewis was described as the middle man and reportedly remained in Colorado while Bennett allegedly came to Maryland and committed the murder.
    Detectives reportedly do not believe there are any additional suspects in this case.
    More information to come on and in next week’s edition of The Dundalk Eagle.