The former suffragan bishop of Maryland was denied early release from prison today for her seven year sentence for vehicular manslaughter.
The former suffragan bishop of Maryland was denied early release from prison today for her seven year sentence for vehicular manslaughter. At a ninety minute parole hearing in Jessup, Heather Cook, recounted the treatment she was receiving in prison for her alcoholism, and also spoke of her family history of problems with alcohol, Parole Commissioner David Blumberg told television station WBAL in Baltimore.
Cook was “evasive”, however, Commissioner. Blumberg said, and showed no remorse for having killed father of two Thomas Palermo on 27 Dec 2014 when she struck him with her car while he was riding a bicycle. At the time of the incident, Cook had been texting and was intoxicated, with a blood alcohol level three times over the legal limit. After striking Mr. Palermo with her car, Cook fled the scene, returning more than a half hour later.
Deposed from the ministry of the Episcopal Church following the incident, Cook pled guilty to vehicular manslaughter and was sentenced to seven years imprisonment on 27 Oct 2015. At her sentencing hearing, she expressed remorse for having killed Palmero and apologized to the dead man’s wife.
However, Parole Commissioner Blumberg said at today’s “hearing, she did not accept responsibility, she lacked remorse. She called it a brutal irony, and she did not apologize to the victim at any time.”
Cook’s possible parole after serving 18 months of a seven year sentence aroused public anger in Maryland. BikeMaryland, a cyclists organization, circulated a petition addressed to Commissioner Blumberg urging him to reject her bid for early release.
“Heather Cook should be denied parole,” the petition said.
“She made deliberate choices leading up to killing Tom [Palermo]. Her actions have negatively impacted our community in that cyclists are more fearful than they ought to be and we will likely continue to have troubles bringing new cyclists into our community as a result of Heather Cook’s actions.”
“Eighteen months is just not long enough – this was not an accident, and the message sent to our community if she is paroled now will be that there are not severe enough consequences when you kill one of us when flagrantly violating the law and human decency,”
Commissioner Blumberg told WBAL after the hearing: “She avoided answering some of the commissioners’ questions, and overall, they felt she definitely was not worthy of a discretionary early release.”
Cook is not eligible for a second parole hearing, but must serve out her sentence. However, if she maintains an exemplary disciplinary record in prison, she will be given time off for good behavior and could be released in 2019.