Howard man who tried to kill wife gets 5 years Undercover police officer posed as killer-for-hire in estranged husband's plot

May 02, 1998|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

A Columbia man who plotted to kill his wife by hiring a hit man was given five years in prison yesterday, a sentence that disappointed prosecutors and distressed his intended target.

The sentence means Mark Cordero, 43, will be eligible for parole in the fall.

"She's worried," said David Harvis, who represents Regina Cordero in a bitter divorce and custody battle with her estranged husband, "that the sentence will not give her the security she hoped for."

Cordero, who wanted his wife killed while he was in Central America on a scuba trip, could have faced up to life in prison when he was sentenced yesterday by Howard Circuit Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. Prosecutors asked for a prison sentence of 20 years -- well above state guidelines of four to nine years for the solicitation of murder charge.

"We're obviously disappointed in a five-year sentence when someone attempted to murder his wife," said Howard County State's Attorney Marna McLendon. "But for the fact that [Cordero] was contracting with an undercover police officer, Gina could have been dead."

Before sentencing the former IBM computer engineer, Kane said he believed a sentence within the state guidelines was appropriate. He said testimony had convinced him that Cordero was remorseful and probably not at "significant risk" to commit such a crime again.

Defense attorneys argued that his severe depression -- which is being treated -- drove Cordero to commit the crime.

Kane gave Cordero a 10-year sentence but suspended five years and gave him credit for the 10 months he has served. He ordered that Cordero be placed on five years of supervised probation after his release and have no contact with his estranged wife.

"The defendant committed an egregious act. He should be punished," Kane said.

Before being sentenced yesterday, Cordero, wearing a suit and shackles, apologized to his estranged wife in a courtroom packed with his family members and friends.

"I'm embarrassed and ashamed to say that I was that person," Cordero told Kane. "I thank God this act was not carried out."

Teary family members spoke on his behalf. All talked about the depression Cordero suffered after his wife left him and lamented that no one saw how serious it was.

His father, Chuck Cordero, 69, thanked police for intervening in a crime that could have become lethal. Then he pleaded with Kane. "I'm asking you to give us back our son," he said.

Both of Cordero's children from a previous marriage, Cory, 17, and Travis Cordero, 18, sat next to their father at the defense table as they spoke. Said Cory: "He was the greatest dad. He would always take care of me."

Cordero was arrested in June after a man tipped off police about HTC Cordero's plans. Police arranged for an undercover officer to pose as the killer-for-hire.

According to a statement of facts read earlier in court, Cordero met the "hit man" in an Ellicott City shopping center June 26. He gave him a picture of his wife and $3,000. Another $6,000 was promised later.

Cordero told the officer that he wanted his wife "offed" while he was on a scuba trip in Belize because he wanted custody of his now 4-year-old son Evan. Cordero told the officer to make the killing look like a carjacking or robbery, the statement of facts says.

In arguing for a "severe" sentence, Assistant State's Attorney Mary Murphy said Cordero had a history of violence.

She said that Regina Cordero left her husband because she feared for her safety.

"This man wanted his wife killed and he paid someone to do it. Calculating. Cold. Devious and heinous," Murphy said.

She referred to statements Cordero made to the undercover officer when arranging the murder.

"The man who supposedly cared so much about his son Evan said, 'If you have to do it while the kid is present, just do it, and I will take care of the kid,' " Murphy said.

For Regina Cordero, the idea that she was a target haunts her.

"Any stranger who approaches me is suspect," she said in court yesterday.

"I am afraid for my son, who may well have seen his mother brutally murdered. There is not a day that goes by that the horror of that possibility is not with me."

Pub Date: 5/02/98

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