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Inmate charged with murder plot

A Peekskill man has been indicted by an Erie County grand jury for trying to recruit an undercover state trooper to kill the woman he had sexually assaulted.

Brendon Berndt, 26, currently an inmate at the state's Gowanda Correctional Facility, would have been released no later than mid-April 2014 for the 2009 sex crime in Westchester County. Now he faces a new charge of murder conspiracy.

State police at the Collins barracks accused Berndt of trying to hire a "hitman" to kill the now-25-year-old woman he was convicted of sexually assaulting as she was walking on Route 6 in Cortlandt late on Oct. 29, 2009. State police arrested him on Nov. 4, 2009.

Berndt, who has been in the Gowanda facility since February 2011, was convicted of first-degree sexual assault and an aggravated drunken driving charge in connection with that sex attack and is serving a combined prison term of up to three and a half years.

If convicted of the new second-degree murder conspiracy charge, he could face up to another 20 years in prison.

A State Police spokesman said the new charge came after a three-month investigation carried out by the state police, the Erie County District Attorney's Office and the state Department of Correctional Services' Inspector General's Office.

Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III declined TO comment on the new case against Berndt.

Berndt's arraignment on the new charge has not yet been scheduled.