Baltimore County police have charged a Pasadena man with hiring a hit man to kill his girlfriend 14 years ago, according to a release from the department.
Stephen Michael Cooke, 43, of the 1000 block of Englishman Harbour, was charged with first degree murder for the killing of Heidi Bernadzikowski, who was 24-years-old at the time of her death. Cooke is being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center without bail.
“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,” the release states. “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.”
Police believe Cooke was motivated to collect on a $700,000 life insurance policy he had purchase for Bernadzikowski months before her death. Bennett was arrested in January 2012 and charged with murder have police linked his DNA to the crime scene.
“The investigation shows that Cooke hired Bennett and another conspirator, Grant A. Lewis, also of Colorado, to kill Bernadzikowski,” the release states. Lewis was arrested this week in Baltimore and is also being held without bail.
Investigators said Cooke contacted Lewis and Bennett via the Internet to arrange a murder-for-hire agreement. It is believed Lewis was the middle man and Bennett was the person who traveled to Dundalk from Colorado to kill Bernadzikowski.
"We have been seeking justice in this case for a long time," Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson said in the release. "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."
On Friday, we informed Ashley Frederick that she was renting the home where the murder happened. She believes that explains why her four-year-old daughter refuses to sleep alone.
"I always ask her why and she's always saying she's scared. And honestly, now that I know some woman got murdered here, I do believe in spirits and stuff like that, that lady, you know, she could still be lingering around," said Frederick. "She says somebody's looking in her window. But she's on the second floor, so nobody could be looking in her window," she said.