Maryland Episcopal Bishop Heather Cook Pleads Not Guilty In Fatal Hit-and-Run

Heather Cook was ordained in the Maryland diocese almost 30 years ago
Heather Cook was ordained in the Maryland diocese almost 30 years ago

Maryland ‘s first female Episcopal bishop, charged in the December fatal hit-and-run of a bicyclist, pleaded not guilty to manslaughter on Thursday.

Bishop Heather Cook is accused of striking and killing Baltimore cyclist Thomas Palermo, 41, with her station wagon while she was inebriated and texting two days after Christmas last year. Cook’s blood-alcohol content was 0.22 — nearly three times the legal limit — according to NBC affiliate WBAL.

Cook, 58, fled the scene before returning approximately half an hour later, according to a statement released by the Episcopal Church of Maryland in February. Palermo was taken to the hospital, where he later died of his injuries.

The bishop, once the second-highest ranking member of the diocese, is now facing more than a dozen charges, including vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence of alcohol, reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident.

Cook appeared in Baltimore City Circuit Court early Thursday and pleaded not guilty by default, her lawyer said. The trial was set to start on June 4.

“By inference that we got a trial date, that in essence is a not guilty plea at this time,” attorney David Irwin told NBC News. “There’s always a chance between now and then that it could be resolved.”

“It’ a horrible situation — everybody understands that,” he added.

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Daniella Silva

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