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Bishop Cook indicted on vehicular homicide, drunken driving, other charges

Episcopal Bishop Heather Elizabeth Cook was indicted on 13 charges Wednesday in the death December of cyclist Thomas Palermo in North Roland Park, the Baltimore state's attorney's office announced.

Cook, 58, the second-ranking official in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, is accused of striking Palermo on Dec. 27 with her car as she was texting and driving drunk. The charges include automobile manslaughter, driving under the influence of alcohol and leaving the scene of an accident.

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The indictment came nearly a month after State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced charges against Cook. Cook has been free on bail while awaiting trial; she is scheduled for arraignment March 5.

Authorities say Palermo, 41, was riding in the bicycle lane on Roland Avenue when he was struck. Witnesses said Cook initially left the scene before returning. Police said she registered a 0.22 percent blood-alcohol content level.

Other charges in the indictment include homicide by motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol; driving while impaired; texting while driving during an accident that results in death or serious bodily injury; reckless driving; and negligent driving.

Cook's lawyer declined to comment Wednesday. A spokesman for the diocese said it was aware of the indictment but had no comment.

"We have nothing to say," spokesman Dan Webster said. "It's a legal matter, and certainly our congregation is continuing to pray for her as she winds through the legal process."

Diocesan leaders have asked Cook to resign. The national Episcopal Church is also conducting an investigation.

Palermo, a software engineer at Johns Hopkins Hospital, was married with two young children. He made and repaired bicycle frames on the side. His death has galvanized the cycling community.

The Maryland diocese has expressed condolences and support for Palermo's family. Webster said the diocese has also hired a crisis consultant to help with "managing the media, [knowing] what's best to say, what can be said and can't be said."

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