Former bishop may be released after serving two years imprisonment for manslaughter
Heather Cook is scheduled to appeal before a Parole Board hearing on 9 May 2017, offering the possibility the former suffragan Bishop of Maryland will be paroled two years after she was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for having struck and killed a cyclist while driving while intoxicated. On 27 Oct 2015 a Baltimore City judge sentenced Cook (60) to 20 years imprisonment, but suspended 13 years of her sentence. Cook was to serve five years for manslaughter followed by a two year sentence for leaving the scene of the accident. She was sentenced to a further five years probation upon completion of her term. Cook, who currently is incarcerated at the Maryland Correctional Institute in Jessup, is eligible for early release as a non-violent offender under Maryland parole guidelines. According to court records on the afternoon of 27 Dec 2014 Cook was driving her car on Roland Avenue in Baltimore while intoxicated — her blood alcohol level was later recorded at .22 per cent, three times the state’s legal limit. She then began to text whilst driving and swerved out of the traffic lane onto the bicycle lane, striking cyclist Richard Palermo from behind. The collision propelled Palermo onto the hood and windshield of the car and then on to the pavement. Cook then left the scene of the accident for approximately thirty minutes, and then returned to the scene of the collision but drove away again. She then returned to the scene a second time and was arrested by police. Cook was charged with 13 felony counts and after arraignment was released on bail of $2.5 million. At her sentencing hearing the victim’s family and prosecutors asked for ten years imprisonment. Cook apologized to the Palermo family, expressing contrition for her actions. The judge told Cook that the seven year sentence would not be her final judgment. That would come when she would stand before her maker. Heather Cook was deposed from the ministry of the Episcopal Church in May 2015. Her arrest prompted the national Episcopal Church to review its policies on alcohol, culminating in a series of recommendations set forth by the General Convention in June to address alcohol and substance abuse and the use and promotion of alcohol in church related events.