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Hit-and-run US bishop Heather Cook gets seven years

30 October 2015


Fatal spot: flowers and messages placed at the scene of the collision in Baltimore, last December

Fatal spot: flowers and messages placed at the scene of the collision in Baltimore, last December

A FORMER bishop in the Episcopal Church in the United States was sent to prison for seven years on Tuesday for killing a cyclist while driving drunk.

Heather Cook was Suffragan Bishop of Maryland when she had a fatal collision with a cyclist, Thomas Palermo, on 27 December last year (News, 2 January). She was picked up by the police, who gave her a breathalyser test and found that she was nearly treble the legal limit.

In September, she pleaded guilty to manslaughter and other offences, including drink-driving and leaving the scene of an accident (News, 18 September).

During her trial, the court heard that she was sending a text message as she drove, and that she left the scene of the collision twice.

She said: “I am so sorry for the grief and the agony I have caused,” the Baltimore Sun reported. “This is my fault. I accept complete responsibility.” She told the judge that “I believe God is working through this, and I trust your judgment.”

The judge sentenced her to 20 years with all but seven suspended. Prosecutors had asked for ten years.

Mr Palermo leaves behind a wife and two small children.

“While no amount of prison time would ever seem sufficient, we feel the court today could have sent a stronger signal that our community takes driving while under the influence, and driving while distracted seriously,” one of Mr Palermo’s sisters-in-law, Alisa Rock, said.

In May, it was announced by the Presiding Bishop, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, that Ms Cook, who resigned from her diocesan post, would no longer function as an ordained person in the Episcopal Church (News, 8 May).

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