Local News

'Bad indictment' forces delay in doctor's murder trial

Posted November 2, 2010

— A "bad indictment" prompted a judge on Tuesday to delay the trial of a Raleigh doctor charged in a ballerina's death last year.

Raymond Dwight Cook, a former facial plastic surgeon, is charged with second-degree murder, driving while impaired and felony death by vehicle in the Sept. 11, 2009 wreck that killed Elena Bright Shapiro, 20.

Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cruden filed a motion to continue the case, saying the "bad indictment" failed to mention the words "with malice aforethought." That phrase is necessary in a second-degree murder charge.

The judge continued Cook's case, possibly until next year, so it can go back to the grand jury.

"I'm just glad I caught it now, because if I had caught it after the jury had been impaneled, that case would have probably been dismissed," Cruden said.

Shaprio's family, who was in the courtroom Tuesday, said they were disappointed, but not angry about the delay.

"We are 100 percent behind the DA's office and all the good people who are part this," said David Shapiro, Elena's father. "(We are) eager to get closure, but we'll be patient."

"We're aware that no matter what happens, we don't get Elena back. Whatever the resolution of this is, we still go on without Elena," her mother, Brantly Shapiro, added.

Raleigh police say Cook, of 10516 Beckridge Lane, was traveling 90 mph when he crashed into the back of Elena Shapiro's vehicle at Lead Mine and Strickland roads.

Cook had been drinking at a local country club and at a local tavern prior to the crash, witnesses said.

Prosecutors offered Cook a plea deal in May, but he and his lawyer never agreed to it. Since the wreck, he has surrendered his medical license and has completed a stint at a rehab clinic.

Formerly employed by UNC Hospitals, but authorized only to practice at WakeMed in Raleigh, Cook practiced facial plastic surgery and otolaryngology, a specialty in treating ear, nose, throat, head and neck disorders.

A ballerina with the Carolina Ballet, Elena Shapiro, of Winston-Salem, had been in Raleigh rehearsing for "Swan Lake."

"She had years of training and (was) on a professional track," said Brantly Shapiro. "I think of her as very golden. She's just an adorable, lovely, magnificent person and, you know, she just went ahead of us."

In addition to talking to the media, the Shapiro family released a statement Tuesday saying they are "heartbroken by the loss."

"(We) are all grief stricken by her senseless death. We know that our heartache will never end, and we are left to wonder what other accomplishments and joy our Elena would have seen if she had not been taken from us so young and so suddenly."

"We hope and pray that one day, no one else will need to go through what we have suffered," the family's statement continued. "We hope that we can do something to keep others from having to endure what we endure every day, and for the rest of our lives."


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  • newsjunk Nov 5, 2010

    I dont doubt that he hates himself right now, but where is the punishment?!?! Forget the proven guilty part, he was at the scene, he admitted to hitting her, he blew a .19?!?! And for the past year he has been either in a higher end rehab facility (freely coming and going) or living in a wealthy neighborhood in a beautiful home, with his wife and kids who still go to private school and his parents visiting?!?! Now he'll get to spend the holidays with his family!??! Not saying it's "blue" around his house, but in this country people are supposed to be treated equally. Put a lower class, poorer person on the road with same offense last night, they have now been in jail already doing there time, never saw light of day after killing that girl. I hate the unjustice. He should be ashamed for pleading not guilty and/or not taking the deal that was a lesser plea. You drink, you get behind a wheel, someone can die.

  • k9s Nov 3, 2010

    Everybody calm down. He quit drinking. Now what he does is freezes it and eats it like a popsicle. BTW, addiction is not a disease and the magic 8 ball thinks the jury will max him out.

  • threewakecountyboys Nov 2, 2010

    For argument's sake, we'll say alchoholism is a disease. In order to feel good, the alchoholic drinks. An allergy is a disease. In order to feel good, I have to pump myself up with Benedryl. Difference is, I choose NOT TO DRIVE MY CAR after I take a substance that impairs my ability to be safe.

    Pound those drinks down as much and as often as you want. Ruin your liver and your own family, if you choose. Just don't get in a car and ruin an innocent person. IMHO, the fact that he chose to do so supports "malice and forethought". Proving that legally may be a different story.

    And don't judge the ADA too harshly; sometimes I make the dumbest mistakes at work and home and wonder how I ever manage to hold down a job. Clearly an error that he took responsibility for and will correct.

    Prayers to Ms. Shapiro's family & all those destroyed by this preventable tragedy.

  • tarheelpatriot Nov 2, 2010

    We should have a law of mandatory sentencing if you are DUI and
    cause a death.. Arguing how much intent would be like saying an armed robber did not mean for anyone to die... He drove drunk
    & killed someone ...end of story...
    Really the speed should not matter...
    If someone drives drunk and runs over a child going 5 MPH
    it should be the degree of guilt.

    The decision to drink and drive is like shooting a gun into a crowd. Just because you didn't mean for the gun to hit anyone
    doesn't change that you murdered someone.

  • conmarjo Nov 2, 2010

    He made the decision to drink. He made the decision to drive his car fast. Dead is dead and he caused it and he needs to go to jail for a very long time.

  • asdad Nov 2, 2010

    Whereas this is another avenue:
    § 20‑141.4. Felony and misdemeanor death by vehicle; felony serious injury by vehicle; aggravated offenses; repeat felony death by vehicle.

    (a) Repealed by Session Laws 1983, c. 435, s. 27.

    (a1) Felony Death by Vehicle. – A person commits the offense of felony death by vehicle if:

    (1) The person unintentionally causes the death of another person,

    (2) The person was engaged in the offense of impaired driving under G.S. 20‑138.1 or G.S. 20‑138.2, and

    (3) The commission of the offense in subdivision (2) of this subsection is the proximate cause of the death.

    Perhaps they should have tried for this???

  • asdad Nov 2, 2010

    § 15‑144. Essentials of bill for homicide.
    In indictments for murder and manslaughter, it is not necessary to allege matter not required to be proved on the trial; but in the body of the indictment, after naming the person accused, and the county of his residence, the date of the offense, the averment "with force and arms," and the county of the alleged commission of the offense, as is now usual, it is sufficient in describing murder to allege that the accused person feloniously, willfully, and of his malice aforethought, did kill and murder (naming the person killed), and concluding as is now required by law; and it is sufficient in describing manslaughter to allege that the accused feloniously and willfully did kill and slay (naming the person killed), and concluding as aforesaid; and any bill of indictment containing the averments and allegations herein named shall be good and sufficient in law as an indictment for murder or manslaughter, as the case may be.

  • asdad Nov 2, 2010

    Intent as they look at it would be the intent and "forethought" that he was going to do harm. Not that he could do harm. He had no intent, unless proven otherwise, to kill someone that early morning. What he did is a crime. Whether or not it rises to 2nd degree murder is another question altogether. NC GS 14-17 lays out what second degree murder is. "All other kinds of murder, including that which shall be proximately caused by the unlawful distribution of opium or any synthetic or natural salt, compound, derivative, or preparation of opium, or cocaine or other substance described in G.S. 90‑90(1)d., or methamphetamine, when the ingestion of such substance causes the death of the user, shall be deemed murder in the second degree, and any person who commits such murder shall be punished as a Class B2 felon." If it was willful, premeditated and deliberate, then it would be first degree. I don't see what Willoughby's office is thinking. They may have botched this from the start

  • meta4csw Nov 2, 2010

    So the state gets a do-over, why does it take an entire year to present to the grand jury? That's the question.

  • buffaloemorris Nov 2, 2010

    Let me tell you from personal experience, you can not believe everything that is in a police report, either. And, what is being reported is what was in that report. In my accident, I was on my way to the hospital by ambulance along with my 2 year old passenger, when the person that caused the accident decided to lie to the police. He told them that I ran the stop sign, so I was given the tickets in the hospital. Now, lets see. I had the right of way and he had the stop sign. How is it my fault? The cop wrote I was going 45, even though I told her I wasn't, and the other driver was going 20. Anyone that looked at my vehicle knew that was impossible. I had the wreck reconstructed at a cost of $1800 to prove who was at fault. It was the other driver who was driving in excess of 45 mph.

    With all of that said, only Dr. Cook knows how fast he was driving. We've heard from 80 to 100. Yes, he was DWI and that is wrong. However, the malice the ADA refers to was 20 years ago.