By Rick Ritter

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– After former episcopal bishop Heather Cook was denied parole for driving drunk and killing cyclist Tom Palermo, his widow made a passionate plea to those on the road Wednesday.

The dramatic moment took place outside the Jessup state prison.

Back in 2014, Tom Palermo was one of them when he was hit along Roland Ave.

His wife, Rachel Palermo, reminded drivers of the pain and suffering their family might never shake.

“I want you to think of me and my pain,” she said.

It’s an emotional plea that tugs at the hearts of many.

“If you still talk on your phone or text while driving, please put your phone down,” Rachel said.

The widow begged all drivers to think before they get on the road, which was a reminder of how her family continues to suffer.

“I want you to think of a 6 and 8 year old who wish their dad was still here,” she said.

Cook, who had a lengthy history of drinking and driving, was denied parole on Tuesday.

Shortly after, Rachel delivered powerful words that sheds light on a problem Maryland continues to grapple with.

“If you plan to go out and drink please set up a ride before you go.”

More than 10,000 people are killed every year by drunk drivers.

According to the CDC, in a 10-year stretch, more than 1700 people were killed by drunk drivers in Maryland. An average of more than 170 deaths per year.

Something Joe Sikes is all too familiar with.

“You can’t describe the loss of a child to anyone that hasn’t loss a child, it’s not like any other loss,” Sikes said.

Sikes’ daughter Alisa, a ballerina, was killed by a drunk driver 25 years ago.

“We faced that crushing loss for quite frankly a crime that’s completely preventable,” he said.

With Rachel’s plea fresh in the minds of many, now there can be the time for change.

“The problem is not gone, it’s a fight we have to continue until we solve it,” Sikes said.

“I want you to think of tom’s parents and their loss and I want you to think of your owned loves ones,” Rachel said.

Cook never apologized during her hearing, with good behavior she could be released as early as 2019.

Church leaders knew of Cook’s 2010 drunk driving arrest but gave her a chance at redemption.

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