Murder Via the Internet

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As Aphrodite Jones pointed out in her TV program on ID, it was an Internet ad promising “Discreet house cleaning”.

Where did that ad appear? That was not revealed. Sounds to me like it was one of “Craig’s List” specials, but I don’t know.

Didn’t an official where the ad appeared even bother to check to see what “Discreet house cleaning” was? The site where the ad appeared should have been charged with complicity in a murder.

Heidi Bernadzikowski, 24, was murdered in 2000 by Charles Bennett, a friend of Grant Lewis, both from Colorado. Lewis placed the ad online.

Stephen Cooke who lived in a small town close to Baltimore answered the ad. Don’t ask me how you gravitate the online conversation from house cleaning to murder. Of course Lewis couldn’t list online that they were “Professional killers, first time”.

Heidi was Cooke’s girlfriend. They lived together. Let me frame this the best I can. Heidi was 24. Stephen was 43. Heidi’s family had to know that arrangement was destined for disaster. Maybe not murder, but certainly prime for domestic violence at the least. Stephen Cooke didn’t seem to have any reliable means of support either which even made the situation worse.

Her brothers, four if I remember correctly, each individually were the size they could have beaten the tar out of Cooke if Heidi wanted to come home and Cooke objected.

If all four confronted him at the same time, he would have known to never bother Heidi again.

Heidi’s dead now sixteen years, and I’m sure each and every day her brothers, and her parents, if they are still alive, replay in their minds the number of things that could have changed that.

I’m not sure I want to attach any blame to Heidi’s family because so many different scenarios happen in people’s lives, sometimes the situation that is self-evident isn’t.

Cooke had the locks changed when an intruder tried to break into the house where he and Heidi lived as boyfriend and girlfriend. He had the locks changed for Heidi’s “safety”. He put a key where Bennett could find it when he showed up.

Bennett came from Colorado to kill Heidi. He choked her and stabbed her.

A five-alarm thought went off in the minds of every member of Heidi’s family because Cooke had taken out a $900,000 life insurance policy on Heidi shortly before her murder.

The family was able to hold up payment for a few years under Maryland law that says someone who is a suspect in a murder case cannot collect life insurance on the victim they were suspected of killing.

Finally Cooke, I assume, took it to court and reached a settlement with the family of an 80/20 split, Cooke with 80 percent. If it had been me, I would have let it go to the jury, and relied on them to see that Cooke had something to do with Heidi’s murder, and awarded the insurance money to Heidi’s mother and father. The inaction on the case between 2000 and 2014 allowed Cooke to initiate the insurance settlement of which he received $720,000.

The case was that long 14 years cold, because, even though Heidi had fought with the killer and had some of his DNA under her fingernails, in 2000 DNA testing was not advanced and conclusive enough to identify anybody, much less Cooke.

They were able to bring Bennett to trial in 2014 with much more definitive DNA testing. The DNA under Heidi’s fingernails entered into CODIS matched Bennett’s DNA. Bennett had had some minor skirmishes with the law and his DNA was already in CODIS, the national database for DNA.

Just before his trial started, Bennett identified Lewis, his friend, as the man who set up everything.

Lewis had arranged with Stephen Cooke the murder for hire on the Internet, and told Bennett $60,000 was to be paid for the hit.

Lewis, after being implicated by Bennett, then connected Cooke to the murder as the person who wanted Heidi killed.

Even with this, Cooke might have walked, because with Lewis and Bennett testifying against him, both were not sterling examples of the truth walking around.

Cooke made the mistake of blabbing to his cellmate that he wanted major damage done to Lewis who was in jail himself, to keep Lewis from testifying against him. Aphrodite said Cooke’s cellmate consented to wear a wire, and to get all this info on tape.

Cooke, Lewis, and Bennett all went to jail, Cooke and Lewis for life. Bennett got a relatively short sentence, thirty years if I remember rightly. Maybe it was in the plea deal he made. I don’t know.

I’m not even sure that Lewis and Bennett ever met Cooke before the murder, and might not even after the murder. No money ever changed hands.

It’s difficult for me to imagine that Lewis never pursued the collection of the money, even though Cooke was broke until he collected Heidi’s insurance money.  I do think if I had been Lewis I would have sent Bennett to kill Cooke. After all, they were successful in evading capture for 14 years, and in their minds might have considered they had murdered once, why not do it again for a promise not kept.

I guess I have to think like a murderer, and fortunately I don’t, but if I did I would have been able to figure out what Lewis and Bennett were thinking in regards to that.

As for me, when Cooke got the insurance money, and didn’t pay the $60,000, I would have killed the SOB. Honor among thieves and murderers I believe is what you call it.

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