Columbian guilty of hiring hit man Judge convicts Cordero of attempting to have wife killed

'Is she scared of him? Yes'

Former engineer was in heated divorce, custody fight

January 13, 1998|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Mark Cordero was convicted yesterday of trying to resolve a heated divorce and custody battle by hiring a hit man in an attempt to kill his wife.

The former IBM computer engineer, 43, wearing a suit and leg irons in Howard County Circuit Court, admits to the crime, his attorney said, but pleaded not guilty because of technical flaws in the case.

Cordero was found guilty by Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr.

Prosecutors said Cordero, a Columbia resident, could face up to life in prison when he is sentenced March 31, although state guidelines recommend four to nine years for solicitation of murder.

According to a statement of facts read in court, Cordero met the "hit man" in an Ellicott City shopping center June 28 last year and gave him a picture of his wife. He gave him $3,000 and promised another $6,000 later.

What he did not know is that the man was Mark Verderaime, an undercover Howard County police officer.

Yesterday, Cordero's wife, Regina, flanked by family and friends, looked on as prosecutors read the statement that included transcripts of tapes recorded by police.

"Is she scared of him? Yes, no question about it," David Harvis, Regina Cordero's attorney, said in court. "Her source of strength seems to be that right will happen."

Prosecutors said that when Cordero contacted a man to find someone to kill his wife, the man told police, and Verderaime took over.

According to the statement of facts, Cordero told Verderaime he wanted custody of his 3-year-old son. The only way to do that, according to Cordero's conversation in the statement, was to have his wife "offed" while he was on a scuba trip in Belize and make it look like a carjacking or robbery.

Cordero said: "I'd do this thing myself, but you know the heat would be on me," prosecutors said, reading from the record.

Verderaime asked: "You want her killed, not hurt, right?" [Cordero] replied, "Yes," prosecutors said, reading from the record.

Cordero's father, Chuck, winced and let out a soft moan when he heard prosecutors read that statement.

When Verderaime told Cordero he did not want to kill Regina -- known as Gina -- in front of their son, Evan, Cordero told him not to worry, according to the statement.

"If you have to do it while the kid is present, just do it, and I will take care of the kid," Cordero said, according to the statement.

His attorney, Judith R. Catterton, said Cordero admits trying to hire the hit man. But, she said, Cordero plead not guilty because they plan to appeal to a higher court, claiming flaws in the charging document and illegal wiretapping.

"What he did was awful. It was wrong. He knows it was wrong," said Catterton, alleging that Cordero was suicidal after he was arrested. Catterton said she plans to present evidence at Cordero's sentencing that he was severely depressed.

"He went over the edge," Catterton said.

She said Cordero is on anti-depressants while in custody at the Howard County Detention Center.

His problems with a hot temper permeated the couple's marriage, according to court records in their divorce proceedings.

Regina Cordero obtained protective orders against her husband 1995 and 1996 -- both of which he agreed to, records show.

In 1995, Mrs. Cordero learned from a co-worker that her husband had talked of killing her, prosecutors said. Concerned about her safety and that of her son, she decided to leave her husband and move to Towson, according to court records.

Catterton vehemently denies that Mark Cordero made such statements.

In the divorce filings, Mrs. Cordero said her husband had gone to counseling for temper problems before their marriage, and during the marriage his problems grew worse.

He verbally and physically abused her and the children -- including a teen-age son and teen-age daughter from his previous marriage who lived with the couple in their single-family home in Columbia's Hickory Ridge village, the filing said.

In February 1995, Regina Cordero was awarded custody of their son, and Mark Cordero was ordered to pay $350 a month for child support.

Helen L. Weiss, a social worker appointed by the court in 1996 to interview the Corderos and the child in connection with the custody case, wrote to the court that Mark Cordero has "difficulty appropriately controlling his emotions, specifically his anger and temper."

Weiss suggested that Mrs. Cordero retain custody and that Mark Cordero be allowed visitation. But she also recommended that he receive "individual therapy to help him deal with his emotions," according to a letter sent to the court Dec. 16, 1996. The next hearing in the divorce and custody case is scheduled Jan. 29. Harvis said he expects that the custody issue will be moot.

Pub Date: 1/13/98

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