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Bar owner: Doctor was inebriated before fatal crash

Posted September 15, 2009
Updated September 23, 2009

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— A local plastic surgeon facing charges in the weekend traffic death of a ballerina was at a Raleigh tavern drinking alcohol minutes before the crash, according to the bar's owner.

Raymond Dwight Cook, 42, of 10516 Beckridge Lane in Raleigh, faces a number of charges, including second-degree murder, in the Sept. 11 wreck at Lead Mine and Strickland roads in Raleigh. Investigators said the car he was driving crashed into the back of a vehicle driven by Elena Bright Shapiro, 20, of Winston-Salem. She died at WakeMed.

Jimmy Powers, co-owner of Piper's Tavern at 8304 Falls of Neuse Road, said Tuesday that Cook was cut off after just two alcoholic drinks.

Cook left the tavern around 8:15 p.m. Friday, according to Powers. The crash happened about 15 minutes later, less than 2.5 miles away.

Powers said Cook, who met a woman at the tavern, had two drinks, but was cut off after a customer noticed him stumbling to the bathroom.

"He (Cook) asked for his drink back and my manager said, ‘Sorry you are shut off,’ and the lady said, ‘We paid for these drinks.’”

Powers said the manager then told Cook that he would be reimbursed for the drinks.

“The lady proceeded to ask if they could have to-go cups,” Powers said.

Powers said the manager told the woman that the tavern did not provide to-go cups for alcoholic drinks.

Powers said the manager walked the couple out of the tavern and that he assumed the woman would be driving. But authorities said Cook was behind the wheel and alone at the time of the wreck.

Cook was initially charged with a death by motor vehicle in Shapiro's death, as well as a number of other charges, including driving while impaired and careless and reckless driving.

But authorities upgraded the death charge to second-degree murder Tuesday morning. Cook could face a maximum sentence of 41½ years in prison, if convicted.

Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cruden declined to comment about the case Tuesday, but public records indicate Cook has a DWI conviction from 1989 in Camden County, Ga., where he pleaded no contest.

That, as well as speeding, were factors that could have led authorities to upgrade the death-by-motor-vehicle charge. A police report indicates Cook was traveling 90 mph in a 45 mph zone at the time of the wreck.

Cook is out of jail on a $250,000 bond.

Shapiro was a ballerina who had been training with the Carolina Ballet. She had been expected to perform in the dance company's upcoming rendition of "Swan Lake," which opens Thursday.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • bubbba Sep 17, 2009

    CRAZY I have lived with Alkies all my life....There is nothing you can tell me that I havent suffered. And yes heroin is illegal (still think your mixing your words) I still dont have a clue what your point is...Drugs, liquor, pot, cigs. The people making a profit bare partial resposibility..You dont seem to get my point. Our gov has chosen to make some drugs legal and some not. That in no way makes it ok for a bar to continue to sell drinks to a drunk. In this case the bar owner did the right think. The best thing would have been to just call a cab ...Like I do....Duh.

  • carolinarox Sep 16, 2009

    He had been golfing at the Raleigh Country Club and drinking there for a good part of the day before he went to Pipers. From what I see Pipers Mgmt. did what they were supposed to do. They saw he was intoxicated and took away his drinks.

  • Eduardo1 Sep 16, 2009

    I am not familiar what his stand-by-your-man wife is. So which one in photo 1 of 4 is his wife and which is the woman that this murder was with in the bar. Some might say he isn't really a murderer, tell that to the victim and her family.
    Just wonder how many of his patients, while sedated he might hav had his way with, sober or intoxicated.

  • Diabolical Sep 16, 2009

    Sorry, but if you are a long time alcoholic, no way in heck that 2 drinks made him drunk, unless it was laced with some potent stuff, and I doubt that bar owner cut him off at 2 drinks. I would seriously look into that bar as well because they are just as guilty for serving him and allowing him to leave. Knowing he was in that state of mind of drunken stupor.

  • mom2threecld Sep 16, 2009

    hmmm, his face is all over the news because of choices he made. he CHOSE to sit and drink at the country club and then drive to another bar and DRINK and then DRIVE some more. we all have to answer at some point and time for things we do, his is now. yes, it is a shame that he threw everything away. him going to slcohol rehab is part of a requirement with a dui. he knew he had a drinking problem long before now. he is well educated. he knew better. my gosh, he is a trauma md that sees the victims all the time in the er at wake. not cutting him any slack, you can all you want, but i don't think most will

  • james27613 Sep 16, 2009

    "What do we as a society get for putting him behind bars?

    Great question, and a great answer for you.

    One less Drunk Driver off the roads.

  • james27613 Sep 16, 2009

    "Leave Mr. Cooke alone!

    That is the reason a young lady is DEAD!

    You honestly believe this was a one time event ?

    It would be interesting to have his credit card records
    reviewed and see how much money was spent over the last
    three years at the country club and the local taverns he visited.

    The Tavern, since they 'cut him off', should have called police and they could have stopped him before he was ready to turn the ignition key while still in the parking lot.

    Not sure of the law here in NC, in NY if you're behind the
    wheel of the car and the keys are in the ignition you're
    operating the vehicle (engine can be off or running) and
    you can be arrested for DWI DUI.

    He will take a plea deal, serve 6 months and be out on
    the streets to get on with his life while the young lady is six feet under the earth.

  • oldognutriks Sep 16, 2009

    "I know that our society has come to the place that we don't like to "get involved" a lot of times, but when this man left, I wish someone would have walked outside, checked out what car he got into, maybe got a license plate number, and called the highway patrol. We should look at it as if we are saving the life of OUR loved one." posted by garrettsmom earlier.

    Seriously? Do you think the cops could have even gotten there in time. I mean really...he was going 90 miles an hour and wrecked less than 3 miles from the Tavern. What a blissful, perfect world garrettmoms lives in. I hope that bleeding-heart liberal is not one of the jurors at his trial. I suppose you could have gotten in your car, dialed your cell phone while driving and followed him at 90 mph down Falls, then Strickland. I dunno, maybe he was going slower at first and had to drop his lady "friend" off somewhere? Cops might could have found him then.

  • SEOpro Sep 16, 2009

    "Leave Mr. Cooke alone! Doesn't anyone respect privacy anymore? His face is all over the news and he is constantly being followed by the news media. He has surrendered his medical license and resigned from his job. I am sure he feels terrible about what happened so just back off." - Heathen

    One can assume you are in his chain of enablers also. Someone that drinks as much as Cooke obviously did on a regular basis had a whole family and church full of ENABLERS who could have gotten him help before the CHOSE to drink and CHOSE to drive resulting in the murder of an innocent young woman.

    Leave him alone? HA. He'd still be living a good life had he actually been doing so in the first place. So what if he goes to church? So what if he has a loving family and enabler wife. Look what it has done because he was living a lie.

  • GravyPig Sep 16, 2009

    "What do we as a society get for putting him behind bars? What does the girl's family get? Nothing. Nothing at all. Let's just hang each person when they do anything wrong. Yes, the actions he is ACCUSED of are deplorable. They are rotten." - asdad

    What I read out of this statement is that what he did is no worse than jaywalking or other less serious offenses. "Lets just hang each person when they do something wrong" says to me that you feel his actions and the incident are no worse than petty theft. I understand you are blinded by the fact that this guy is your church buddy, but what you need to understand is that the word being written here will have no effect on the outcome of his trial and conviction sentencing. So what does it matter if we judge him? Why do you feel he is so "good" even after making this deadly decision?