The Heidi Bernadzikowski, Stephen Cooke, Dundalk, Maryland, murder-for-hire case will be highlighted tonight on Dateline NBC. Every Friday Dateline examines a new case for NBC viewers. Thursday night Dateline NBC episodes are usually a repeat. Tonight’s Dateline NBC will tell the story of Heidi Bernadzikowski, a 24-year old insurance company receptionist who was found murdered in her living room. Her boyfriend, whom police suspected all along, was finally brought to justice over a decade later. Stephen Michael Cooke, Jr., is currently serving time in prison for her death. The hit men that he hired, Alexander C. Bennett and Grant A. Lewis, were also convicted.
Law enforcement officials now know that Stephen Michael Cooke, Jr, hired two hit men to kill his girlfriend. Investigators say the motive was a $700,000 insurance payout in death benefits. Heidi was found dead in the front room of her home with her throat cut. The number “1” was scrawled in lipstick just above her body. Heidi’s boyfriend, Stephen Cooke, found her after arriving home at about 9 p.m., that night.
Cooke is the one who made the frantic call to 911, where he told dispatchers that he found his girlfriend murdered. The Baltimore Sun reported back in 2000 that an elderly neighbor saw Heidi Bernadzikowski when she arrived home from work hours earlier. According to the neighbor, identified as Reggie Evelyn, about 30 minutes after Heidi entered her home, he heard the sound of several people running around inside her house, which was located in the 2200 block of Codd Avenue in Dundalk, an unincorporated part of Baltimore, Maryland.
“I definitely heard some kind of noise. I assumed it was [neighborhood] children. I heard a noise like children running around inside, but I knew she didn’t have any children.”
An autopsy report later concluded that the young woman had been strangled to death. The community was in shock as they learned the details of her murder. People who knew Heidi say that she had a bubbly personality who was focused on making her life better. Despite her past problems, at 24, she had found a career that she loved, and a boyfriend whom she loved and trusted. Sadly, she had no way of knowing that he man that she planned to marry would be the same man who would orchestrate her killing — and all for money.
The police tried desperately to find something that would connect Stephen Cooke, Jr., to the case. But the investigation eventually went cold, until 2012, when DNA connected Alexander Charles Bennett to the case. At the time, the public didn’t know that Bennett was connected to Stephen Cooke. After tying up all the loose ends of the crime investigation, police moved in and arrested Stephen Cooke in 2012, along with Grant Lewis. Heidi’s mother, who was still living in 2014, stated that she was glad that they finally got justice in the case, and in their hearts they always knew that Stephen Cooke was behind it. Her parents took Cooke to court over the insurance money, just a few years after her death. Prosecutors say that Alexander Bennett was the one who killed Heidi in her home that day.
Here is the tease of tonight’s Dateline NBC episode entitled “Indiscretion.” Don’t forget to tune in to see how Baltimore County investigators finally solved the case.
“A young woman is found brutally murdered in her Baltimore home. Police find themselves stumped for over a decade — until a DNA breakthrough leads to surprising suspects. Could two determined detectives crack the cold case?”
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