Local News

Ex-doctor convicted in DWI death gets work release, home visits

Posted April 23, 2013
Updated May 10, 2013

— A former Raleigh doctor serving up to four years in prison for a DWI crash that killed a 20-year-old ballerina has been taking part in a work- and home-release program – news that the prosecutor in the case says he is disappointed to hear.

A jury found Raymond Cook, 46, guilty on March 1, 2011, of involuntary manslaughter, felony death by motor vehicle and driving while impaired in the Sept. 11, 2009, death of Elena Shapiro, who danced for the Carolina Ballet.

Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cruden said Tuesday that Cook leaves the Wake Correctional Center during the week to work at a local pharmaceutical company and that Cook also gets 48-hour weekend passes on a regular basis to visit with his family.

"I've been doing this 20 years, and it's news to me," he said.

Cruden said he was aware of the work release but is surprised that Cook has been allowed to go home to see his family before he has served his minimum three-year sentence.

He said he believed Cook would spend every night of the three years behind bars.

"That's what I told (Shapiro's family)," he said. "Now, I find out, oftentimes on the weekends, he's at home with his family, and we had no idea."

It's unclear how long Cook has been granted home visits, but Keith Acree, a spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, said the practice is not unusual.

Raymond Cook Raleigh man gets home visits following DWI death conviction

"Home leaves are a standard part of the transition process for eligible minimum-custody inmates who are nearing release," he said. "When an eligible inmate is within 60 days of release, home leaves can become more frequent."

Cook, whose projected release date is Feb. 28, 2014, has approximately 10 months left on his sentence and is eligible for one 48-hour home leave and two six-hour home leaves per month, Acree said.

A Superior Court judge granted an order allowing Cook to work last July, but it's unclear exactly where or for how long Cook has been working or how much he makes.

Acree did say that his salary goes to reimburse the prison system, pay any court-ordered costs and other judgments. Anything left over is his when he is released.

"These are privileges that one has to earn," Cook's attorney, Roger Smith Jr., said. "I'm assuming he's earned those based on his behavior."

But Cruden said the privileges only serve to further victimize Shapiro's family.

"It caused me a lot of anguish," he said.

Shapiro's father, David Shapiro, said in an email that he, too, is upset by the news and assumed Cook's entire time at prison would be supervised.

"The judge said that this was one of the more heinous acts to receive a felony death by vehicle conviction," David Shapiro said. "He said that he felt Cook deserved more time but due to structured sentencing, Cook would serve every day of three years at a minimum."

Elena Shapiro had spent the day of the crash rehearsing with the Carolina Ballet for a performance of Swan Lake and was on her way to a housewarming party when she was killed.

Cook, prosecutors said, was driving at speeds of at least 75 mph in a 45 mph zone when he crashed into the back of her car at a north Raleigh intersection, killing her instantly.

Tests indicated that, an hour after the wreck, Cook had a blood alcohol concentration of .24. Anything over .08 is illegal on North Carolina.

The state had sought a second-degree murder conviction, which carries a maximum sentence of 24 years, but jurors were deadlocked 10-2 on a second-degree murder verdict.

Defense attorneys argued that Cook tried to help Elena Shapiro after the crash, and therefore, didn't intend to kill her. Prosecutors argued that he spent the day drinking at a local country club and, later, at a bar and that the wreck was not an accident.

Cook, who worked as a facial plastic surgeon, surrendered his medical license shortly after the crash.

The North Carolina Medical Board ruled in April 2011 that he could reapply for it in September 2011, but Smith said Tuesday that Cook currently is not licensed to practice medicine.

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  • elkerster Apr 25, 2013

    lew1967- pharmaceutical company and pharmacy are not the same thing.

  • Hatchcover Apr 25, 2013

    "Actually, he was an incredibly talented ENT and plastic surgeon. His practice may have had some basis in the purely cosmetic but he also was very skilled at repairing and reconstructing the faces of patients that were taken to WakeMed after suffering horrific facial trauma. I hope that if someone you know ever gets shot in the face or flys face first thru a windsheild, they are lucky enough to have someone with half his skill care for them." - mama2two

    Dr. Josef Mengele was pretty adapt to the medical practice too. Very skilled individual. None which excuses their actions!

  • delilahk2000 Apr 25, 2013

    ALL THESE JOBS SHOULD GO TO PEOPLE THAT ARE NOT IN PRISON......HE DOES NOT DESEVE ANY FREE TIME.....IT SOUND LIKE HE IS AT SUMMER CAMP AND NOT IN PRISON....

  • mystuff1505 Apr 25, 2013

    Getting behind the wheel and driving while that impaired is a crime. He knowingly knew drinking all day and getting in the car was a hazard and could have killed himself and/or someone else when he decided to do so. Just like when purchasing a gun you are supposed to know what it can and can't do what it should and shouldn't be used for. The car was his weapon. He should have to pay the price for killing someone. He should have his rights taken away since he cared so little about anyone else's rights when he got in that car and killed Ms Shapiro.

  • jsok123 Apr 25, 2013

    "...money matters, what else is new?..."

    Yes. I hate this town and am looking forward to moving out west soon. Any flaming responses will be promptly ignored.

  • snowl Apr 25, 2013

    Wow, I remember my 88 year old family member saying that this 'doctor would soon be out of prison and practicing medicine again'.....(and that was at his sentencing hearing.) Correct!! Grrrr.

  • WASP Apr 25, 2013

    Typical.

  • chrisnrali Apr 24, 2013

    money matters, what else is new?

  • diane7183 Apr 24, 2013

    I am not sure how I feel about this story. It was noted on the news last night that the work release and home visits are the way these types of cases are handled, and Cook was not given "preferential treatment". If this is true than it needs to be explored in this context. I think what Cook did was heinous but he has fulfilled the judgment that the Court decreed too. I do feel very sorry for the Shapiro family. Elena was a beautiful, young woman with so much to offer. I hope that the Shapiro parents bring a civil suit against Cook.

  • lwe1967 Apr 24, 2013

    How is this possible? Why is he allowed to work at a pharmacy. This is medically related. Was not his license to practice medicine taken from him? I agree this is a slap in the face of the Shapiro family and a higher court needs to look at this and reject it.

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