The murder of Stephen Cooke’s live-in girlfriend Heidi Bernadzikowski at their shared Dundalk flat on Codd Avenue in April 2000 was planned, according to an episode of NBC’s ‘Dateline: Indiscretion’. The case became cold due to a lack of forensic equipment at the time, but the police finally closed it after more than ten years. We’ve got your back if you’re curious about how Stephen managed to elude the law for 11 years and his present whereabouts. So let’s get started, shall we?
Who is Stephen Michael Cooke Jr.?
Early in the 1990s, while playing pool, Stephen Michael Cooke Jr. met Heidi Louise Bernadzikowski, and a quick romance developed. Within a few months of dating, the young couple rented a townhouse in the 2000 block of Codd Avenue in Dundalk, Maryland. In April 2000, she was a full-time receptionist at a downtown insurance firm and he was a part-time employee of Lowe’s plumbing department. They had a terrific connection, according to Stephen, and even had plans to wed in Las Vegas.
On April 20, 2000, Stephen picked up Heidi in their shared automobile from her downtown workplace at 5 p.m., but he had to leave by 5:30 p.m. since he thought she needed to use the loo. He stated he had a long list of things to go and could not wait for Heidi during his police interrogation, so he departed right away. According to detective Gary Childs, the man “got his oil changed, had his hair cut, went to Home Depot, fixed his sister’s plumbing, went through the tunnel, and then came back home.”
Additionally, he said, “Everywhere (Stephen) he went, he either got a receipt for going or the place where he went had video.” After seeing Heidi’s dead in the living room when he got home, Stephen frantically dialled 911 for assistance. When the responding officers arrived, they discovered Stephen holding his dead live-in girlfriend and sobbing. The autopsy report stated that Heidi’s throat had been sliced and she had been strangled to death.
The authorities suspected Stephen, as they do in most girlfriend or spouse homicides, but there was no concrete proof connecting him to the crime. The couple had significant insurance policies, with Heidi’s insurance coverage being $700,000. This gave them a specific reason to target him. His DNA did not match the male DNA identified under the victim’s fingernails, and he had a proven alibi. The investigators failed to consider searching Stephen’s computer at that very early point in the realm of digital communications.
Stephen gave the police leads, including some unsettling occurrences his girlfriend had to deal with in the weeks prior to her death. He talked about how a stranger had knocked and expressed interest in starting a neighbourhood watch programme. But since she was by herself at home, she became alarmed when she was unable to recognise him as a neighbour. Later, she described the person to her boyfriend and coworkers, and Stephen relayed that information to the police.
Where is Stephen Michael Cooke Jr. Now?
The neighbourhood block watch volunteer was characterised by Heidi as a larger, light-skinned black man or a dark-skinned, possibly Mediterranean white man with black hair, according to retired Baltimore County Police Sergeant Allen Meyer. She had drawn a tattoo of his on a piece of paper for the girls who worked in her office, which she had him get on his left arm. Stephen also told the police about purported scratches that were allegedly made around the rear door lock the night before the murder. The scratch marks suggested that the lock on the basement door had been attempted to be tampered with.
Stephen had to go to the rental company and insist that they replace the locks in order to pacify a worried Heidi. After speaking with scores of people, the police eventually found about a potential suspect called Terry Gilliam, a professional butcher who worked at the Safeway store alongside Stephen’s sister. After arresting Terry, they ultimately had to release him since there was insufficient proof. As the investigation dried up, Stephen made an effort to collect on two policies on Heidi’s life.
He was listed as the major beneficiary under the plans, according to court documents, but Heidi’s relatives refuted his claims in a civil lawsuit. A few days into the trial, he put out a compromise that would have given Heidi’s mother 80% of the insurance payouts and given him the remaining 20%. His offer was approved by her family. Stephen appeared to have moved on with his life by the time the police reopened the investigation in September 2011 and found two hit men who had killed Heidi.
Stephen married, had a child, and was employed by the federal government in the Veterans Affairs department. After dropping off his son at school, the police detained him and accused him of first-degree murder. The authorities only had statements from the two hitmen and circumstantial evidence against him because there was no formal paper trail. He tried to enlist a prisoner to kill or threaten one of the hitmen while he was incarcerated and awaiting trial. In his June 2015 trial, he denied any involvement in the murder, but the jury didn’t buy it.
In the case of Heidi’s death, Stephen was found guilty of first-degree murder, conspiring to murder, and soliciting to murder. He was given a life sentence without the possibility of release. He was also given concurrent terms of 25 years and 5 years for first-degree assault and witness intimidation. The court referred to it as “one of the most coldblooded, heartless, manipulative, despicable crimes” he had ever seen, despite the fact that he insisted on his innocence. Currently detained at the Jessup Correctional Institution is the 52-year-old.
Our Team DCS includes 5 different writers proficient in English and research based Content Writing. We allow them and encourage them to follow the Entertainment news all day long. Our posts, listicles and even the exclusives are a result of their hard work.