The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland’s first female bishop has admitted being the driver in a Sunday hit-and-run that killed a bicycle rider. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Bishop Cook Initially Left the Scene
In an email to parishioners Sunday, Bishop Eugene Sutton said that Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook left the scene of the crash but returned about 20 minutes later “to take responsibility for her actions.”
“Together with the Diocese of Maryland, I express my deep sorrow over the death of the cyclist and offer my condolences to the victim’s family. Please pray for Mr. Palermo, his family and Bishop Cook during this most difficult time.”
2. The Deceased Was a Well-Known Cyclist
Thomas Palermo, 41, was known for building custom bike frames, and was well acquainted with the area of Baltimore in which he was killed.
Baltimore bicyclist Chris Merriam told the AP:
“He was a craftsman. A lot of people owned frames built by him with loving care. He was a very talented guy, and a lot of people knew him.”
3. Cook Was Ordained a Bishop Two Years Ago
Though born in Syracuse, New York, Cook grew up in Baltimore and was elected in September to be the Episcopal Church of Maryland’s first female bishop.
She was ordained with the Maryland diocese in 1987, serving in Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania and the Maryland shore before coming back to Baltimore. At the time, she said she was “finally coming home to serve in the diocese that formed me and is in my bones.”
When Cook was consecrated a Bishop, Sutton caleld it “Glorious.”
“This is a glorious day for the Diocese of Maryland as we welcome Heather Cook to the diocese, and I look forward to her joining with me in our Episcopal ministry.”
4. Cook May Have Been Charged With DUI, Posession of Drug Paraphernalia
In 2010, a woman identified as Heather Elizabeth Cook, 53, was arrested on state Route 318 in Preston, Maryland, by the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office on charges of marijuana and drug paraphernalia possession, driving while under the influence of alcohol, reckless driving and negligent driving. Police found a metal smoking device, according to reports, a bottle of wine and a bottle of whiskey.
News site Baltimore Brew has attempted to confirm that it is the same Heather Cook who allegedly hit Palermo Sunday, and her attorney, David Irwin, has not responded to phone calls requesting comment.
5. Cook Was ordained a Bishop Two Years Ago
Sutton, Cook’s superior in the diocese, has said that due to the police investigation into the incident, Cook has been relieved of her duties, at least temporarily. As a result, Sutton will delay an intended sabbatical.
“Because the nature of the accident could result in criminal charges, I have placed Bishop Cook on administrative leave, effective immediately. I will meet shortly with the Standing Committee to discuss ways we can move forward. Also, I have decided to delay the beginning of my sabbatical to Jan. 24 to be pastorally present in this difficult time.”