Early Parole Rejected For Former Bishop Heather Cook

Heather Cook, the former Episcopal bishop who pled guilty to criminal charges in connection with a drunk-driving crash, will remain in prison

Commission chairman David Blumberg said the two commissioners who ruled on the case told him one reason they denied Cook parole was that she “took no responsibility” and “showed no remorse” for her actions during the 90-minute hearing.

 

Heather Cook, the former Episcopal bishop who is serving a seven-year prison sentence for a drunk-driving crash that killed a Baltimore bicyclist in 2014, saw her request for parole “denied outright” by the Maryland Parole Commission late Tuesday morning.

Commission chairman David Blumberg said the two commissioners who ruled on the case told him one reason they denied Cook parole was that she “took no responsibility” and “showed no remorse” for her actions during the 90-minute hearing.

Blumberg said Cook will no longer be eligible for parole.

Blumberg, who was not present at the meeting but spoke to the commissioners immediately afterward, said they informed him that even though Cook, 60, spoke at length, she never apologized to Rachel Palermo, the widow of Thomas Palermo, the father of two Cook killed while driving drunk and texting on Dec. 27, 2014.

Palermo sat a few feet away from Cook during the proceeding.

Blumberg said parole officials in vehicular manslaughter cases typically consider four main criteria during such hearings: the degree to which an offender takes responsibility or displays “appropriate remorse,” the continuing impact on victims and the question of public safety.

Heather Cook, the former Episcopal bishop who pleaded guilty to four criminal charges in connection with a drunk-driving crash that killed a married father of two, will remain in prison after her request for early release was rejected Tuesday.

Though the hearing was “unusually long,” it took “a very short amount of time” for the commissioners to agree to deny parole in the case.

Given good behavior, including sufficient involvement in prison social programs, Cook could be released as early as sometime in 2019, Blumberg said, but he estimated the likeliest date of release would be on March 23, 2020.

If she’s released any time before her mandatory release date of October 21, 2022, Cook would be under supervised mandatory release until that date.

Rachel Palermo was the first to speak after the hearing.

Her voice choking with emotion, she told a small group of reporters that “today is really about Tom” and “also about those who continue to love him and feel his loss.”

Then she made a plea to anyone listening to avoid the kind of behavior that led to the crash that killed her husband.

“I ask this: if you still talk on your phone or text while driving, please put your phone down,” she said. “If you plan to go out and drink, please set up a ride before you go. I want you to think of a 6- and an 8-year-old who wish their dad was still here. I want you to think of me and my pain. I want you to think of Tom’s parents and their loss. And I want you to think of your own loved ones.”

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