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Driver in hit-and-run that killed framebuilder was bishop

Baltimore framebuilder Tom Palermo died after being hit by car driven by Bishop Heather Cook

An Episcopal bishop in Maryland has admitted to being the driver in a hit and run that killed Baltimore framebuilder Thomas Palermo on Saturday.

Mr Palermo was riding on Roland Avenue, Baltimore when he was hit by a Subaru estate at about 2:45 pm. The driver, Bishop Heather Cook, left the scene but returned between 20 and 45 minutes later.

According to some reports Cook returned after being chased and identified by other cyclists on the scene.

On the website of bike campaign organisation Bikemore, 'Fellow bikerider' writes that they were one of the first on the scene after Tom Palermo was hit:

" remained at the scene until it was secured by the police and walked my bike across the median strip to thank one of the gentlemen who was early at the scene. He was in a conversation with another biker and they immediately indicated that they believe the car that hit Mr. Palermo had just driven past. They had the make and model but not the license."

The rider followed the car to a gated apartment complex, but was stopped by security and told the car had just left the complex.

"I rode back up the hill to the light at Lake and saw the driver talking to a policeman. I rode up to them and, without anything else to say thanked her for returning to the scene."

According to police reports, Mr Palermo was still alive when emergency services arrived, but died later in Sinai Hospital.

On Sunday, Cook's church superior the Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton wrote an email to the diocese confirming that Cook had been the driver.

Sutton wrote: "I am distressed to announce that Bishop Heather E. Cook was involved in a traffic accident Saturday afternoon, Dec. 27, that resulted in the death of bicyclist Thomas Palermo, 41.

"Together with the Diocese of Maryland, I express my deep sorrow over the death of the cyclist and offer my condolences to the victim’s family."

Sutton confirmed that Cook had initially left the scene.

"Several news organizations have reported this as a ‘hit and run.’ Bishop Cook did leave the scene initially, but returned after about 20 minutes to take responsibility for her actions," he wrote.

No charges have been laid in connection with the crash. On Monday December 29, city police issued this statement:

"These investigations are complex and intricate, offering requiring detailed reconstruction and forensic examination. This is still a very active investigation that is being handled by our C.R.A.S.H. Team.

"In order not to jeopardize any potential prosecution, specific evidentiary details will not be released at this time. The identity of the driver and other specific information about the incident will not be confirmed at this time.

"Everyone’s thoughts and prayers remain with the Palermo family. While there is significant public interest in this incident, the integrity of the investigation must be preserved."

According to the Baltimore Brew's Fern Shen, Cook was arrested in 2010 for drunk driving after giving a blood reading over three times the legal limit. She was also charged with possession of marijuana and of drug paraphernalia.

The drugs charges were later dropped and Cook pleaded guilty to the drink-driving charge and received “probation before judgement” with a $800 fine, $500 of which was suspended.

On Monday December 29, a group of local riders gathered for a tribute ride for Tom Palermo and took the opportunity to voice their fears about riding in Baltimore to WMAR Baltimore news:

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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pedalpowerDC | 9 years ago

I can't fathom what goes through a driver's mind to leave the scene after hitting someone. I can't wait to see the BS that she comes up with as a defense . . . .

mrmo replied to pedalpowerDC | 9 years ago
pedalpowerDC wrote:

I can't fathom what goes through a driver's mind to leave the scene after hitting someone. I can't wait to see the BS that she comes up with as a defense . . . .

This is not a defence, but i would suggest denial, standard human behaviour is to deny what is happening if you don't like it. This is common to any situation, and not a driving issue.

Matt_S | 9 years ago

Only god can judge me.

Or some sh1t.

oldstrath replied to Matt_S | 9 years ago

An American Episcopalian. Doubt she believes in God.

Airzound | 9 years ago

Nothing righteous or God fearing about this woman. Clearly she has behaviour traits of the devil. She's a witch. Burn her!

mhlepore | 9 years ago

I met Tom Palermo at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Richmond, Virginia a few years back. His gorgeous touring/rando bike drew me to his booth, and he ended up being a very nice guy who loved to talk bikes. I hope his family can find peace soon.

felixcat | 9 years ago

Perhaps Bishop Heather can work this incident into her next sermon on the Good Samaritan? Something about driving by on the other side of the road.

racyrich | 9 years ago

Being nice is not related to being competent.

And since she left the scene, perhaps not all that nice either. Certainly unsure of her responsibilities.

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