BALTIMORE – A former Episcopal bishop who fatally struck a bicyclist while drunk and texting behind the wheel was released Tuesday from a Maryland prison after spending more than three years behind bars.
Heather Cook was the second-highest-ranking Episcopal leader in the state when the fatal crash occurred two days after Christmas 2014. Thomas Palermo, a software engineer and a married father of two, was fatally struck by Cook's vehicle as he rode his bicycle in Baltimore.
She served just over half of the seven-year sentence she originally received for Palermo's death, according to corrections spokesman Gerard Shields. She had earned good behavior credits and authorities have described her as a "model inmate" at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women.
Cook pleaded guilty to manslaughter, drunken driving and leaving the scene, and resigned from the church in May 2015. The church deposed her from the ministry the day she resigned.
Following the fatal crash, Cook left the scene for 30 minutes before returning, and her blood alcohol level was 0.22 — far higher than Maryland's legal limit of 0.08. She was also texting when she struck Palermo.
At her sentencing, Cook addressed Palermo's family directly, saying she accepted complete responsibility and apologizing for the "pain and agony" she caused.