Parole Denied for Former Bishop Who Struck, Killed Bicyclist

WASHINGTON — Heather Cook, the former Episcopal bishop who pleaded guilty in a drunken-driving crash that killed a cyclist in Baltimore in 2014, has been denied parole after serving less than two years of her seven-year sentence.

At a parole hearing in Jessup, Maryland, Tuesday morning, two commissioners heard from three people arguing for her release and three arguing against.

Cook — whose blood alcohol level after the crash was recorded at .22 percent, nearly three times the legal limit in Maryland — pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter, driving while drunk, texting while driving and leaving the scene of the crash that killed Thomas Palmero, 41, in December 2014. Palermo was a well-known and well-liked figure in the Maryland cycling community.

After the hearing, Palermo’s widow, Rachel, read a brief statement, telling drivers:

“If you still talk on your phone or text while driving, please put your phone down. If you plan to go out and drink, please set up a ride before you go. I want you to think of a six- and an eight-year-old who wish their dad were still here. I want you to think of me and my pain. I want you to think of Tom’s parents and their loss. And I want you to think of your own loved one.”

Cycling proponents have argued against Cook’s parole, citing her previous drunken-driving charge in 2010. In that case, Cook registered a blood alcohol level of .27 percent and police said they found marijuana and empty liquor bottles in her car. Police also noted she was driving on a shredded tire.

Cook had been the first female bishop in the Episcopal diocese. She was deposed after resigning her position in May 2015.

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