Female Bishop Finally Arrested over Lethal Hit-and-Run, Accused of Driving Drunk and Texting

Episcopal Diocese of Maryland
Episcopal Diocese of Maryland

The female Episcopalian Bishop who, by her Diocese’s admission, struck and killed a widely respected Baltimore bike designer has been arrested and charged with a number of crimes that could result in up to 21 years in jail.

Baltimore’s new State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby made the announcement on Friday that Bishop Heather Cook, 58, would be charged with vehicular manslaughter, criminal negligent manslaughter, driving under the influence resulting in a homicide, and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death.

Cook will also be charged with texting resulting in an accident.

The State’s Attorney said Cook and the cyclist Thomas Palermo were both traveling in the same southerly direction on a street with a bike lane. Mosby said Cook was texting and abruptly swerved into the bike lane, striking Palermo—whose body caved in Cook’s windshield. Palermo was thrown to the ground and came to rest against a curb. Cook continued south.

Cook returned thirty minutes later, driving north, but again did not stop at the scene. Instead she drove home. Only then did she return to the scene, where she was taken into custody and later given a Breathalyzer test. According Mosby, Cook scored a .22—three times the legal limit for drinking and driving.

The criminal charges filed against her could result in years behind bars. Negligent homicide by a vehicle comes with a maximum of 10 years. Negligent manslaughter by vehicle comes with a maximum 3-year sentence. DUI resulting in homicide brings a maximum of 5 years. And the charge of homicide involving a car while impaired comes with a 3 year maximum. Altogether that’s 21 years, in addition to up to $20,000 in fines.

It was reported this week that the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland knew in advance of hiring Cook that she had a previous arrest for drunk driving. In 2010, she was pulled over at 1 in the morning with vomit down her shirt, driving on the rim of one wheel, with a bottle of whiskey, a bottle of wine, and a bag of pot in her car. The diocese said they forgave and hired her anyway as the second-in-command of the Diocese of Maryland.

George Conger, writing at The Media Project, says Cook’s travails could spell trouble for her boss: “The Bishop of Maryland, Eugene Sutton, is touted as being the favorite for election as the next head of the Episcopal Church this July. Will this sink his candidacy, or will his response to the accident propel him into office?”

Palermo was widely known in the Baltimore cycling community. A fund for his children has brought in $70,000.

Follow Austin Ruse on Twitter @austinruse