Maryland’s first female Bishop accused of striking cyclist, leaving him to die on road

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “What if a loved one dies from the injuries sustained in a serious accident while the case is pending?”


The State of Maryland’s first-ever ordained female Episcopal Bishop is in the news over the holidays for all the wrong reasons.Damaged bicycle Charlotte Mecklenburg Injury Lawyer North Carolina Wrongful Death AttorneyHeather Elizabeth Cook is the second-most-powerful officer in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. The diocese confirmed on Sunday that Cook was behind the wheel of a Subaru that sustained damage in a “massive impact” with 41-year-old custom bicycle builder Tom Palermo. Palermo was riding a bicycle when Cook’s vehicle collided with him.

Palermo was killed in the accident. Cook initially fled the scene, but returned about twenty minutes later to take responsibility for the accident. The diocese insisted that since Cook returned to the scene, the accident was not a “hit-and-run.”

Lora Peters, a cyclist who encountered Palermo after the crash, said Palermo was still alive when she found him. Peters said Cook may have been able to help Palermo or to call for help if she had remained on the scene. A local biking advocacy group, Bikemore, released a statement alleging that “the driver of the car involved initially fled the scene, leaving Tom to die on the street.”

Cook has not released any public statements about the accident, however the Episcopal Diocese has revealed that she has been suspended from her post because she may be facing criminal charges related to the accident.

This is not the first time Cook’s driving has landed her in hot water. In September 2010, Cook was suspected of reckless driving and was detained in Caroline County, Maryland after one of her car’s tires became shredded. An officer administered a breathalyzer, and Cook blew a .27—more than three times the legal limit for blood-alcohol content while driving in the state.

A search of Cook’s vehicle uncovered a bottle of whiskey, a bottle of wine and a marijuana pipe, according to the Daily Mail and Drug charges levied against Cook were ultimately dropped in 2012, while she received “probation without judgment” for a charge of driving under the influence.

Maryland has seen its share of high-profile cycling deaths. The Aug. 21, 2013 death of popular cyclist Trish Cunningham just south of Annapolis, Maryland, sparked a wave of protests and a get-out-the-message campaign among Maryland cyclists, who demanded that drivers respect their right to three feet of space pursuant to a law the state legislature passed in 2010. Cunningham was killed when a driver ran her off the road as she climbed a small hill near her house.

“There’s room, and a proper place, on the road for everyone,” Cunningham’s daughter told the Washington Post a month after her mother’s death. At that time—by the Post’s tally—around 51 cyclists had been killed over a five-year period in the Washington, D.C. region, which is a short distance from where Palermo was killed this past weekend.

According to the Post, since record-keeping began over 80 years ago, some 55,000 cyclists have died in traffic crashes in the United States.

If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of someone’s negligent or intentional conduct, please do not hesitate to contact me to set up an appointment today. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding potential personal injury claims, feel free to contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC in Charlotte, North Carolina for a free consultation. Call toll free at (955) 370-2828 or click here for additional resources.



About the Author

ARNOLD & SMITH LAWMatthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.

Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.

In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.






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