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Bishop Suffragan of Maryland tied to crash in Baltimore

Bishop Suffragan of Maryland tied to crash in Baltimore

Bishop Heather Cook was placed on administrative leave after an automobile collision with a bicyclist who later died from his injuries.

The Rt. Rev. Heather Cook, Bishop Suffragan of  Maryland, has been identified as the driver involved in a deadly bicycle crash on Saturday in the Roland Park section of Baltimore. Thomas Palermo died from his injuries. Cook apparently left the scene of the accident and returned about twenty minutes later. The Bishop has been placed on administrative leave by Bishop Eugene Sutton.


The bishop’s involvement in the crash was confirmed by the director of communication with the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.

Authorities said Cook’s vehicle struck and killed a bicyclist around 2:45 p.m. Saturday.

Police officers were called to the 5700 block of Roland Avenue for a report of a car accident.

When officers arrived, they found 41-year-old Thomas Palermo who had been struck by a car.

The victim was transported to Sinai Hospital, where he later died from his injuries.

Investigators from the CRASH team were called to the scene.

Detectives believe a Subaru station wagon was traveling southbound in the 5700 block of Roland Avenue when the vehicle struck the bicyclist.

Police said Cook originally left the scene but later returned. She is being questioned by detectives.

There have been no word on whether she will face any charges.

The Baltimore Brew posted a letter from Bishop Eugene Sutton to the clergy of the Diocese:

From the Bishop’s Office
Dec. 28, 2014
To the Clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland

Dear Colleagues,

I am distressed to announce that Bishop Heather E. Cook was involved in a traffic accident Saturday afternoon, Dec. 27, that resulted in the death of a bicyclist, Thomas Palermo, 41. Bishop Cook did not sustain any injuries. 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. Please do not contact Bishop Cook directly, but feel free to send written notes to the Diocesan Center.

There is an ongoing police investigation into the accident. Several news organizations have reported this as a ‘hit and run.’ Bishop Cook did leave the scene initially, but returned after about 20 minutes to take responsibility for her actions.

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.

+ Eugene
The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton
Bishop of Maryland

The Brew reported the story and with it published an inquiry about a 2010 DUI arrest, but has so far received no confirmation as to that situation.

See also: WMAR-TV and Baltimore Sun

Posted by Andrew Gerns


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Michael Cadaret

I am not naïve about the issue of alcoholism, and I agree with many of the observations about it. But so far, no news outlet has reported that the bishop was under the influence on this day, nor has law enforcement, nor have any eyewitnesses. She could have been, of course, but we just don’t know, from any reliable source, that she was.

I don’t like that the voting delegates didn’t know about the previous arrest or how it was addressed by the Bishop of Easton. Was there a Title IV (canonical process for ecclesial discipline) proceeding after the arrest? If so, what were the outcomes? If not, why not? I do believe in forgiveness, even for our leaders who should be held to higher standards, but it is entirely unclear how the church addressed her previous arrest.

Robert L Sanders

Apparently this woman made between $120k and $130k, plus bennies. At least one thing the Catholics got right: Vows of poverty.

Michael Hartney

Again, the protocol of Episcopal Cafe requires that you sign your full name (no screen names, initials, or anonymous postings). Those who are new at posting on Episcopal Cafe please take note.

Ann Fontaine

Thanks Michael – because the new system often posts comments without checking for names – we are unapproving those without full names. If you have to post anonymously – write to us for permission first. Editor.

Marianne Ley

I am an Episcopalian in the Diocese of Maryland. I have one comment: “I am so very, very sorry” If our Bishops won’t publicly say it, I will.

Robert Martin

I would say the bishop’s drinking problem or whatever it is, disqualifies her completely from the position of overseer, whether she is in “recovery” or not. And for good reason. An overseer is to be above reproach and a light to others and a visible symbol of the Church–of the strength, nobility and good of the Church.

“Whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, not a drunkard….”

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