Following a meeting of clergy in Buckeystown, the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland released new details about Bishop Heather Cook, who was the driver of the car that hit, and later killed, 41-year-old Thomas Palermo in a Roland Ave. crash on Dec. 27.
Cook, the second ranking bishop in Maryland, is currently on paid administrative leave, but has yet to be charged by police for her role in the crash. Cook left the scene of the crash after hitting Palermo and returned to her nearby home, but later returned. She informed diocesan officials around 3 p.m., when she called the Rev. Scott Slater, who is assistant to Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton.
“She said she thought she had hit a bicyclist and was in shock,” the diocese’s statement said.
The diocese did not detail Cook’s statements to police, or address anything relating to her 2010 DUI conviction. However, the church said they are “cooperating fully” with the investigation.
Here’s the full statement from the Episcopal Diocese:
At 2:59 p.m. Slater received a call from Heather Cook. She said she thought she had hit a bicyclist and was in shock. When Slater arrived at the accident scene around 3:10 p.m. police crime scene tape was surrounding Cook’s car and she was sitting in a patrol car. He immediately identified himself to an officer, provided his identification and business card. He told the officer that Cook had called him minutes before.
During the course of the afternoon Slater called Bishop Sutton and informed him of what he knew; gave a detective his statement regarding his and Cook’s phone conversation; and contacted Jeff Ayres, diocesan chancellor (attorney), and informed him of the incident. He did not speak to Cook at that time.
At 5:27 p.m. that evening Slater received a call from the Baltimore City Police Department asking him to come pick Cook up.
Once at her apartment, he went in for a few minutes and talked with Cook and a friend of Cook’s who had just gotten there to check on her dog and to make sure she wasn’t alone. Slater focused his conversation pastorally on her, as a child of God. They prayed together and he went home.
On Monday evening Slater was asked to return to the police station to give a recorded statement. He answered every question as thoroughly and completely as he could recall, including details of his and Cook’s conversation during the car ride to her apartment.
Out of respect for the ongoing police investigation, for the Palermo family, and for Cook, Slater did not share details of his conversation with Cook in the meeting with clergy today.
Slater and other staff members are cooperating fully with the police investigation and the Title IV investigation begun last week by the Presiding Bishop’s office. We cannot disclose details of that investigation either, as they are constrained by church disciplinary procedures under canon law.
Cook is now in good hands and receiving care that will hopefully help her on her journey forward.
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