Ex-Bishop Heather Cook Pleads Guilty in Hit-And-Run Killing of Cyclist

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By The Associated Press

A former Episcopal bishop pleaded guilty Tuesday to manslaughter, drunken driving and leaving the scene at which she killed a cyclist.

Under an agreement with prosecutors, the state will ask a Baltimore Circuit Court judge next month to sentence Heather Cook to 10 years in prison.

Cook, then a newly installed bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, struck 41-year-old Tom Palermo on Dec. 27 in a bike lane near her North Baltimore home. The impact threw him on to the hood and into the windshield of her vehicle. Cook fled to her home before returning to the scene. When she was tested at a police station, her blood-alcohol content level was 0.22 percent; Maryland's limit is 0.08 percent.

RELATED: Episcopal Bishop Faces Manslaughter Charges in Cyclists's Death

Prosecutor Kurt Bjorklund said Tuesday that Cook left the scene of the accident for 30 minutes, during which time she went home and only returned to the scene "after prodding from a friend."

Palermo died of severe blunt force trauma to the head, and left behind a wife and two young children.

Cook, 58, entered her pleas the day before her trial was scheduled to start. She pleaded guilty to automobile manslaughter, leaving the scene of a fatal accident, driving while intoxicated and texting while driving.

Cook resigned from her post as the diocese's second-highest ranking leader shortly after charges were filed, and the Episcopal Church revoked her clergy credentials.

The plea deal calls for the judge to sentence Cook on Oct. 27 to a maximum of 20 years in prison with 10 years suspended, as recommended by the state. That recommended sentence also includes five years of probation.

Cook had pleaded not guilty in April to 13 counts against her. She was free on $2.5 million bail and has been receiving treatment for alcoholism.