Former Bishop Heather Cook denied parole

JESSUP, Md. - Heather Cook, a former Episcopal bishop, was denied in her first, and only, parole hearing since entering prison for fatally striking a bicyclist while driving drunk, and leaving the scene, in December 2014.

Cook fled the scene after killing Tom Palermo, who was riding a bicycle, on Roland Avenue just days after Christmas. She returned thirty minutes later while driving drunk almost three times the legal limit.

Investigators say she was also texting.

At her sentencing, Palermo's loved ones pleaded with the judge to give the 60-year-old a harsh punishment.  The defrocked religious leader was given seven years behind bars.

She has been in the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup for 18 months. 

A spokesperson said Cook was denied parole for many reasons, including her "lacking remorse", refusing to answer the parole commissioners' questions, and not taking responsibility for her actions. 

Cook will have to spend at least four of her seven years behind bars, but could possibly spend the three remaining years under full supervision. 

A 'ghost' bike is standing on Roland Avenue, serving as a memorial for Palermo. 

His wife briefly spoke with media on Tuesday advocating a stop to texting and drinking while driving. 

“If you still talk on your phone or text while driving, please put your phone down. If you plan to go out and drink, please set up a ride before you go," Rachel Palermo said. 

Advice and a warning that the widow and mother of two wishes Cook heard. 

Several bicycle advocates called the parole commission countless times saying that Cook getting out early would be a slap in the face to Palermo's family. 

“They felt like she definitely was not worthy of an early, discretionary release," David Blumberg, the Maryland Parole Commission Chair, said. 

A sigh of relief for Rachel, but a void still present in her heart. 

“I want you to think of a six and an eight-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," Rachel said. 

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