Heather Cook, the Baltimore bishop who killed bicyclist Thomas Palermo two days after Christmas and admitted to driving drunk and distracted while texting, was sentenced to seven years in prison Tuesday afternoon.
In September, Cook pled guilty in Baltimore City Circuit Court to vehicular manslaughter, driving while intoxicated, leaving the scene of an accident, and texting while driving.
“I am so sorry for the grief and agony I have caused,” Cook told Palmero’s family in court, according to reporting by WBAL-TV. “This is my fault. I accept complete responsibility. I think about you every day.”
The 59-year-old Cook resigned her position as Bishop Suffragan of Maryland earlier this year.
Palermo, a married father of two children, was a Johns Hopkins Hospital software engineer, part-time bike builder, and well known member of the Baltimore bicycling community.
Cook pled guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol in 2010 in Caroline County, receiving supervised probation before judgment. She was also initially charged with possession of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia as part of that incident, but those charges were later dropped (“nolle prosequi,” according to online court records).
According to the City State’s Attorney’s Office, Cook’s blood-alcohol level was .22 at the time of the Saturday afternoon crash that killed Palmero when Cook veered into the Roland Avenue bike lane that he was riding in.
On New Year’s Day, more than 700 bicyclists gathered in Bishop Square Park, adjacent to the Episcopal Diocese’s Cathedral of the Incarnation on University Avenue, for a memorial ride in Palmero’s honor. Bicycle advocates, per tradition for cyclists killed on the road, placed a memorial “ghost bike” at the scene of tragedy.
“My heart goes out to the Palermo family,” Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said in a statement. “I appreciate the cyclist community of Baltimore for supporting the Palermos in their time of need. This senseless tragedy is a clear example of why law enforcement takes drunk driving and texting while driving so seriously.”