WASHINGTON — A former Episcopal bishop, who was sentenced to seven years for killing a bicyclist while driving drunk, will go before a parole board Tuesday.
In December 2014, Heather Cook, 60, struck and killed Tom Palermo, 41, in Baltimore. Prosecutors said she was driving under the influence and texting. At the time of the incident, Cook was the No. 2 leader for the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.
In 2015, Cook accepted a plea deal in the case and pleaded guilty to manslaughter and several other charges. In Maryland, a manslaughter conviction is considered a nonviolent crime, which means Cook must only complete 25 percent of her seven-year prison term.
Cook is expected to go before two parole board commissioners on Tuesday morning at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup. Both commissioners must agree on whether she should be released early.
At the hearing, the commissioners will hear from three people who support her release and three people who oppose it.
Bike Maryland, a bicyclist advocacy group, is among the opponents asking the parole board to keep Cook behind bars.
“She made deliberate choices leading up to killing Tom,” the group wrote in a letter attached to an online petition that is expected to be sent to David Blumberg, chairman of the Maryland Parole Commission.
“Eighteen months is just not long enough — this was not an accident, and the message sent to our community if she is paroled now will be that there are not severe enough consequences when you kill one of us when flagrantly violating the law and human decency,” the letter stated.
WTOP reached out to Bike Maryland, but the group’s executive director, Joshau Feldmark, said the group did not want to comment further.
WTOP also reached out to Cook’s attorney and is awaiting response.