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Maryland bishop indicted on drunken driving and homicide charges

An Episcopal bishop in Maryland is indicted on 13 charges including drunken driving and manslaughter

Episcopal Bishop Heather Cook of Maryland was indicted on 13 charges including drunken driving and manslaughter in connection with an accident that killed a cyclist, officials said Wednesday.

Cook was consecrated in September as bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, the diocese’s second-highest position. Officials have asked for her resignation.

Wednesday's formal charges are the latest step in the case that dates from December, when Cook hit and killed cyclist Thomas Palermo in Baltimore, according to the charges.

Police have said that Cook, 58, left the scene of the accident and returned later. Her blood-alcohol content measured .22, above the legal limit of .08.

Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore city state’s attorney, had announced Jan. 9 that her office would charge Cook, the diocese’s first female bishop, with drunken driving and other charges.

According to officials, Cook was indicted on charges including automobile manslaughter, manslaughter by vehicle, homicide by motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, texting while driving and failure to remain at the scene.

If convicted, Cook could face more than 20 years in prison. 

Since the incident, details of Cook’s past drinking have become public, raising questions about how Episcopal officials dealt with the issue. She was convicted of drunken driving in 2010, but the details of that incident were not given to those voting to make her bishop.

Since the death of Palermo, 41, Episcopal leaders have held two question-and-answer sessions with parishioners to discuss the case. Bishop Eugene Sutton has scheduled a third session for Feb. 11.

Cook, who is free on $2.5-million bail, is on leave and is seeking treatment in a residential center.

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