Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook, 58, turned herself into the police Friday after fatally striking cyclist Tom Palermo, 41, nearly two weeks earlier.
According to statements made by Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, Bishop Cook was drunk, registering with a blood-alcohol content of nearly 3 times the Maryland legal limit. She was texting when she veered into the father of two and then left the scene for 30 minutes before turning herself in.
Bishop Cook is being charged with manslaughter as well as leaving the scene of a fatal accident and driving under the influence.
The tragic crime took place on December 27 and Palermo’s family, as well as representatives from two cyclist advocacy groups (Bike Maryland and Bikemore), questioned why Bishop Cook was not charged sooner.
A witness, Jason La Canfora (NFL reporter for CBS), called 911 after finding an injured Palermo at the site of the crash. He insisted that when authorities arrived, he saw no alcohol testing for the bishop.
“I saw no actions whatsoever toward testing her.”
Although some members of the community are crying foul, the prosecutor’s office insists that everything was done by the books in regards to the bishop.
The chief of the conviction-integrity unit for the Baltimore State’s Attorney, Antonio Gioia, explained that Bishop Cook was not charged immediately in order to ensure that they could avoid possible double jeopardy if they didn’t immediately collect enough evidence of the crime.
“It behooves us to take our time and get it right.”
Equally, Attorney Mosby has stated that Bishop Cook was charged as quickly as possible and assured Palermo’s family that “no one is above the law.”
Former prosecutor Andrew I. Alperstein, who once led Baltimore County’s auto-manslaughter unit, indicated that the bishop was charged much quicker than many suspects in this kind of case.
“This is actually extremely fast for the case to have been charged.”
The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland has been fully cooperating with authorities and began their own disciplinary proceedings regarding the bishop around January 2.
The diocese issued a statement regarding the crimes the bishop was charged with.
“On behalf of everyone in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, please know that we are deeply heartbroken over this, and we cry for the Palermo family, our sister Heather and all in the community who are hurting … As we do so we are truly being the church, and we will always be guided by our core Christian values of personal accountability, compassion and respect for the rule of law.”