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Officer: Doctor impaired after wreck that killed ballerina

Posted February 16, 2011
Updated February 24, 2011

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— A police officer testified Wednesday that a Raleigh doctor showed signs of impairment after a wreck that killed a ballerina more than a year ago.

Wednesday was the second day of the trial of Raymond Dwight Cook, a former facial plastic surgeon, on charges of second-degree murder, driving while impaired and felony death by vehicle in the Sept. 11, 2009, wreck that killed Elena Bright Shapiro, 20, a dancer with the Carolina Ballet.

Officer J.A. Geisendaffer said he was the first Raleigh police officer at Lead Mine and Strickland roads, where prosecutors say Cook crashed into the back of Shapiro's Hyundai as she pulled onto Strickland Road.

Geisendaffer testified that that he smelled "a moderate odor of alcohol" after being with Cook in his patrol car for "a matter of seconds." He also said that Cook had red, watery and bloodshot eyes, was stumbling and couldn't walk in a direct path.

Multiple witnesses testified that a dark sedan was speeding, anywhere from 75 to 100 mph, along Strickland Road, toward Lead Mine Road.

Driver Chandra Parker said that the sedan flew past her, then disappeared down a hill.

"It came by me so fast that I cringed. I feared for my life," Parker said. "I thanked God the car didn't hit me, but little did I know what I would see when I got to the bottom of the hill – lights flashing, smoke billowing up."

Geisendaffer said that he was surprised by the severity of the wreck, and emergency medical technician Simon Capell testified that it was the most damage he had ever seen at a wreck scene.

Raleigh Police Officer J.A. Geisendaffer Emotional testimony continues in Raleigh doctor's murder trial

Driver Adam Wright said that he was driving home when the wreck happened in front of him. As he called 911, Wright said, Cook argued that they should pull Shapiro out of the car. Later, he said, Cook tried to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as an off-duty EMT did chest compressions.

"Mr. Cook attempted (to resuscitate her), but he was doing it wrong," said Wright, who is a CPR-certified personal trainer. "He did not do it correctly."

Cappell said he happened upon the wreck while driving home and was the first emergency medical worker there. Cappell said he got Shapiro out of the car and did only chest compressions, because EMTs are trained to avoid mouth-to-mouth due to the risk of infection. Cook jumped in to do mouth-to-mouth, he said.

Trauma surgeon Lori Lilley said that Shapiro had a only a weak pulse and was likely brain dead when she arrived at WakeMed. She was pronounced dead shortly after.

Jurors also watched video of the wreck scene taken by the dashboard camera in Geisendaffer's police cruiser and listened to 911 calls about the wreck.

Prosecutors have contended that because Cook had been drinking, the wreck was no accident. Defense attorneys, though, have argued that although evidence shows that Cook was drinking and was speeding, that doesn't make him guilty of murder.

Under state law, prosecutors must prove that Cook should have known that his actions could kill or injure someone and that he acted with malice.

Since the wreck, Cook has surrendered his medical license and completed a stint at a rehab clinic. Before his arrest, Cook practiced facial plastic surgery and otolaryngology, a specialty in treating ear, nose, throat, head and neck disorders. He was employed by UNC Hospitals but authorized only to practice at WakeMed in Raleigh.


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  • anastasia Feb 17, 2011

    I agree Jat, the defense only allows the EMS man, who is quite articulate coupled with compassion, to drive home the fact that the good doctor, in his drunken state, caused this enormous tragedy from which the others invovled still suffer the consequenses. From the EMT's PTSD, to the young mother with the crying child. Many years ago, while stopped for the light at the corner of Six Forks and Millbrook Rd., I witnessed a teenager get hit by a car. It was horrendous to witness. My three kids were in the backseat, and thankfully were shielded from actually seeing what happened. And the kid wasn't seriously injured, meaning IIRC, it ended up he had a broken leg, no significant head injuries or anything. But it was still shocking, upsetting, and took me a long time to get over. These poor witnesses will carry the death of Elena for ever. And as the paramedic stated, 'it was so unnecessary', 'so preventable.'

  • JAT Feb 17, 2011

    The defense attorney needs to stop asking silly questions in an effort to distract the jury. The EMS is clear and good - we all know what an EMS does, we all know he had training and we all know she was pretty much dead at the scene. Move on!

  • Go Figure Feb 16, 2011

    I agree, james27613. She used alot of medical jargon that a laymen would not understand.

  • Go Figure Feb 16, 2011

    Cook should have also had the judgement to know you don't move an accident vistim in case of neurological damage without proper help/equipment. Guess he judgement was "clouded"!

  • princessdukedaisey Feb 16, 2011

    @daisy, then why did you state "according to my records" You have made many comments that there is "behind the scene information" in this case that you know of. How do you know this "behind the scene information"?

    Unfortunately this has been the 'bad things happen to good people' story at my job. When you work in insurance, like I do...you hear stories like this constantly. We were all told the story from the perspective of the bar, and they were used as an example. Thus, how I know Pipers went above and beyond to try and prevent this. Very very sad story that has been passed around to every insurance company in the Nation. However we were not told anything that can not be found doing research all over the internet. People just don't take the time to look up the insignificant details.

  • mycatbubba Feb 16, 2011

    Dr.Lori Lilley is listed as the ER trauma doctor. About 3 weeks after this terrible wreck occurred, my husband was run over while on his motorcycle. Dr. Lilley was his doctor. My husband died of his injuries. Dr. Lilley was off duty the morning he died, but she called me at home that afternoon to tell me how sorry she was and that she had actually cried when she heard of his death. What a caring doctor she is.

  • junkyard Feb 16, 2011

    If he was driving while impaired and killed that woman, he needs to get major time behind bars.

  • james27613 Feb 16, 2011

    Prosecutors most likely will recall Dr. Lilly to the stand and
    ask her to elaborate her previous medical opinion so jury
    can better understand.

  • luvbailey Feb 16, 2011

    Does anyone remember what the plea deal was, and why he rejected it?

  • james27613 Feb 16, 2011

    Removing her from the vehicle without proper support may have been a bad idea.

    The good Dr. should not have touched her and let EMT do their job.

    "Cook argued that they should pull Shapiro out of the house."???