For years, Baltimore County police were convinced that 24-year-old Heidi Bernadzikowski was killed in 2000 by her boyfriend.
Stephen M. Cooke Jr. had taken out a lucrative life insurance policy on Bernadzikowski just a month before her death. The family sued four years later, alleging he was the killer and shouldn't profit from the death, and called a county homicide detective to testify that Cooke was the sole suspect. They were able to reclaim $500,000 of the insurance policy through a settlement.
This week, county police finally charged someone in Bernadzikowski's death — and it wasn't Cooke.
According to authorities in Colorado, a murder warrant was served Thursday on a man named Alexander Charles Bennett, 32, who was linked to the killing through DNA. After months of looking into Bennett's past, county police aren't sure what connection he had to Bernadzikowski, if any, but say they were able to place him in the Baltimore area about a month before her death.
Police say they aren't finished investigating, however. Elise Armacost, a spokeswoman for Baltimore County police, said detectives try to learn more about Bennett and "whether he acted alone." "The case is not concluded as a result of this one arrest," Armacost said. She would not say whether Cooke remains a suspect.
Reached for comment, Cooke, who is now 40, said he has always maintained his innocence and was relieved at the news, but fears police aren't finished pursuing him.
"They pulled a real number on me — harassing me and harassing my family members," he said. "I was absolutely so certain that they weren't even looking for anyone else.
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