Episcopal Bishop Heather Cook was indicted Wednesday on 13 charges in the death of a Baltimore bicyclist, including homicide, drunken driving, texting while driving and leaving the scene of an accident.
Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore City state’s attorney, had announced Jan. 9 that her office was charging the 58-year-old cleric from the Diocese of Maryland with killing Thomas Palermo on a Saturday afternoon in December while he was out for a ride.
Prosecutors have said since January that Cook could face more than 20 years in prison.
Cook, who has been in a treatment facility since the accident, has a court appearance scheduled for Friday, but her attorney, David Irwin, said it is likely to be procedural and the case continued.
Since the accident, details of Cook’s past drinking have come out, raising questions about what Episcopal officials knew and whether she was receiving any support since becoming the diocese’ first female bishop last year. Cook was charged in a dramatic 2010 drinking-and-driving incident, the bare bones of which top diocesan officials knew when they selected her as a candidate but which they did not share with the broader body that voted to choose her.
Initially reluctant to share details regarding Cook’s personal life, officials have been speaking more frankly in recent weeks as Episcopalians have demanded answers. Bishop Eugene Sutton has appeared at three public question-and-answer sessions on the case, and a fourth is scheduled for Feb. 11.
On Tuesday, Sutton’s office said they didn’t push Cook to discuss her drinking last spring when her 2010 drunken-driving arrest appeared in a background check, explaining that they were trying to respect her privacy. Cook is technically still the No. 2 bishop in the diocese, though officials have asked for her resignation.
On Monday, the diocese set off debate when it posted a new, detailed timeline showing Sutton suspected that Cook was drunk during a pre-consecration dinner two nights before she was made a bishop in the fall.
The timeline also says Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, leader of the Episcopal Church, who presided over the Sept. 6 service that consecrated Cook, was also made aware that Cook may have been drunk during the dinner.