Local News

Jury seated in doctor's murder trial

Posted February 14, 2011
Updated February 24, 2011

— After a three-month delay, the trial began Monday for a Raleigh doctor charged in a ballerina's September 2009 death.

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.

Jurors were seated Monday and Tuesday and opening statements were expected to begin Tuesday afternoon.

When the trial begins, WRAL.com will carry it LIVE.

Cooks lawyer's asked Superior Court Judge Osmond Smith to suppress the chemical analysis of Cook's blood. Smith said he will wait until the jury is selected before hearing the motion.

The trial was supposed to begin in November, but a "bad indictment" prompted a judge to delay it.

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 so it could 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 in November.

Cook on trial Trial begins for doctor charged in ballerina's death

Shapiro's family, who was in the courtroom in November, 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 surrendered his medical license and 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."


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  • asutton10 Feb 18, 2011

    Just driving badly? Are you working for the defense? This man is guilty of murder. Any one with any common sense who has been following this case can see this.

  • Alexia.1 Feb 16, 2011

    While I do not want to take focus away from the real issue here, but another concern I had since this story broke is why her car was so poorly made that it crumbled like it did. Was it a Hyundai she was driving? I'm pretty sure my Ford would not buckle like that.

  • tritonlm6 Feb 15, 2011

    This is only his first offense. I'll bet there will be more throughout his lifetime. Maybe not in this state. But it will happen again. He might do time, but not much. You can bet he'll drink and drive again. Ego has a lot to do with this kind of behavior.

  • ccsloop Feb 15, 2011

    The DA went with 2nd degree murder........that is why there is going to be a trial. Had the DA been willing to go manslaughter, they might have pleaded out. Although his actions resulted in the young woman's death, no one would plead guilty to 2nd degree murder in this case.

  • carmenhiller1 Feb 15, 2011

    I'm so tired of these drunk drivers that kill people getting their hands slapped, only to end up driving drunk again and killing someone. I hope they throw the book at him. We need to send a message that drunk driver will no longer be tolerated.

  • Tarheel born Feb 15, 2011

    Put him in prison for life, let him renew his medical license and pay him 25 cents a day as a DR. Just think of all the money we would save as taxpayers.......

  • luxurytravel Feb 15, 2011

    Trying to supress the chemical analysis of Cook's blood????????????

    Can this guy and his lawyer get any more smarmy????

  • rebecca7 Feb 15, 2011

    Bon Viveur, I can see where you're going with this idea. I think it's a good one, but I doubt it will happen in our lifetimes. I couldn't see allowing a cold blooded murder the same opportunity, but in a situation like this one, when his intent wasn't to afflict death on anyone, he just acted super stupidly and drove after drinking (plus speeding), he could really pay back some 'good deeds' by practicing his 'skill' for the less fortunate as a form of restitution for what happened. But like I said, highly doubt we'll ever see it happen.

  • umop apisdn Feb 15, 2011

    How is there a trial needed. There's no question he's guilty...he did it. He made the choice to drink and drive, he also made the choid to go 90 in a 45 and someone died because of those choices he made. Why do we need a trial? There is never and will ever be anything anyone could ever tell me that might make me think...oh well, I guess what he did wasn't so bad and it was just a terrible accident. Ipso facto he deserves an actual punishment, throw him under the jail.

  • Bon Viveur Feb 15, 2011

    I personally know several surgeons who have told me that they routinely operate on a rail or two of coke, or a few coctails, helps get them in the " right frame of mind" they say. This is indeed a sad case with this talented Dr. They will never get him for 2nd degree murder... Manslaughter yes. And if we really lived in a world where a thoughtful judiciary was in charge, they would have this man volunteer his plastic surgery skills for the next 15 years to those in need. Think of all the cleft palates, deformities, burn scars and accident disfigurements this Dr. could help over the next decade and a half. He could wear a monitor bracelet and be housed in a secure facility when not at the hospital. Shame on all of you that just want him to rot in a cell. That is the most shortsighted approach possible when something good could actually come out of this tragedy.