Two days before she was ordinated as the first female Episcopal bishop in Maryland and three months before she was involved in a fatal hit-and-run incident, Bishop Heather Cook was suspected of being drunk at a private party by head of the Maryland diocese, Eugene Taylor Sutton, and he warned the Episcopal church's national leader, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, about it.
A diocesan spokeswoman told The Baltimore Sun that Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, took Cook to a Baltimore restaurant on Sept. 4 as a gesture of welcome in honor of her then pending ordination into the Episcopal church's high-ranking leadership club.
According to a September entry from a timeline of events document released by the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland Tuesday, Sutton, who was present at the dinner, raised concern with Schori that Cook may have gotten a bit happy with the alcohol but nothing came of it.
"Bishop Sutton suspects that Cook might be inebriated during a private dinner held two days before the consecration, and conveys concern to presiding bishop before rehearsal the next morning (one day before the consecration). Presiding bishop indicates she will discuss with Cook. Cook consecrated a bishop," reads the September entry.
The complete document further shows that despite indications that Cook appeared to have an issue with alcohol, Episcopal leaders waved her on to the second-highest ranking position in the Maryland diocese anyhow.
In December 2013, approximately one year before Cook was involved in the fatal DUI, she was among a list of semi-finalists for the bishop post when a 2010 DUI showed up in a background check requested by the search committee.
"Search consultant [Oxford documents investigator] informs denominational officer in charge of bishop searches and search committee co-chairs about Cook's 2010 DUI revealed in background check questionnaire. Bishop Sutton informed of Cook's DUI. Search committee co-chairs interview Cook about 2010 DUI," noted an entry from the document.
In January 2014, Cook was presented again among finalists for the high-ranking role to a standing committee for approval. The standing committee was informed that one candidate has a DUI but Cook was not identified.
After discussions and presentation of the finalists the document notes that: "Bishop Sutton has requisite bishop-to-bishop conversation with Bishop 'Bud' Shand, diocese of Easton" and "Shand recommends Cook without concerns or reservations."
Cook, according to the timeline, was encouraged to discuss the DUI with delegates at meet-and-greet events in February and again in April, but wasn't particularly forthcoming.
"Public 'meet-and-greet' events with nominees. Cook alludes to a difficult time in her life, but does not explicitly mention 2010 DUI," reads the April entry in the timeline. Cook was elected as bishop in May.
On Dec. 27, 2014, 41-year-old married father of two and cyclist, Thomas Palermo, died after he was hit by an inebriated Cook.
Last month Baltimore's new state's attorney, Marilyn J. Mosby, charged Cook with multiple crimes, including driving under the influence, causing an accident due to texting while driving, and leaving the scene of a fatal accident. She was arrested and later released on $2.5 million bail and is now staring at a sentence of up to 21 years in prison and $20,000 in potential fines if she's convicted.
Cook, 58, registered a staggering .22 breathalyzer reading shortly after the fatal collision, just shy of the .27 reading she registered in the 2010 DUI incident that Episcopalian leaders failed to reveal to the general convention of delegates who elected her to the high-ranking position.
She's expected to return to court in early February for a preliminary hearing where a date for trial will be set.
Read the complete timeline of events below: