BALTIMORE (WJZ) –Timeline of a tragedy. WJZ is uncovering new details about the crash that killed a cyclist and father of two, as police investigate the high-ranking bishop at the center of the investigation.
Outrage and sadness over the death of cyclist, Tom Palermo, in North Baltimore. Meanwhile, the Episcopal Church is releasing updated information about the bishop behind the wheel.
Investigator Mike Hellgren has the details on the investigation.
The Episcopal Church in Maryland says it knew of a previous drunk driving and drug charge against Bishop Heather Cook, but felt she deserved a second chance. This comes as WJZ learns more about that DUI from new documents released by an Eastern shore sheriff.
“On Roland Avenue. It’s a hit and run of a bicyclist who is not doing well.”
The episcopal church confirms Bishop Heather Cook was involved in the crash that killed cyclist Tom Palermo and that she left the scene, then came back. Dispatch recordings reveal that police were already giving out a description of her car, when she returned.
“There was a green Subaru Forester station wagon, just went down the street with its window busted out. There was a female driver. A citizen saw it coming back up Roland Avenue.”
Church leaders also say before they gave her the number two leadership post, Bishop Cook came clean about an ugly drunk driving arrest four years ago in Caroline County. At the time, authorities say her blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit when she was stopped.
She also drove on a shredded tire, had vomit on her shirt, and admitted smoking marijuana. The bishop completed probation for the DUI. The drug charge was dropped.
The Episcopal Diocese says Bishop Cook underwent an extensive background check and a psychological evaluation. Ultimately, they felt the DUI was a mistake, and she should be given a chance at redemption.
The bishop herself talked about responsibility during a recent sermon, one month ago.
“If we routinely drive 55 in a 30 mile an hour zone, we won’t be able to stop on a dime if driving conditions get dangerous or if an animal, or God forbid, a human being should step out in front of us,” Bishop Cook said in the sermon.
A candle-lit memorial for the victim is now growing and fellow cyclists are demanding justice.
“Every time I hear that a colleague has been hit, it’s so disheartening,” Ron Sherman said. “There’s a bike lane here. The sun was out. There’s just no excuse. A 41-year-old man with two young children and now the children have no father.”
The victim’s family praised his quick wit and quiet intelligence in a new statement. They also asked for privacy. Since the crash, police have declined to answer any questions. Bishop Cook and her lawyer are not talking either. She has not been charged in this case.
A memorial ride for Palermo is scheduled for New Year’s Day with a mass and funeral later this week.
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