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Expert: Cook was traveling at least 75 to 82 mph at impact

Posted February 23, 2011
Updated February 24, 2011

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— A crash reconstruction expert testified Wednesday that Raymond Cook was traveling at least 75 to 82 mph when he crashed into the back of a Hyundai Elantra, killing Elena Bright Shapiro, 20, on Sept. 11, 2009.

Cook, a former facial plastic surgeon, is on trial for second-degree murder, driving while impaired and felony death by vehicle in the wreck that killed Shapiro, a dancer with the Carolina Ballet.

Raymond Cook, Elena Shapiro crash pictures Raymond Cook, Elena Shapiro crash pictures

Chris Bradford, a Raleigh police officer and crash reconstruction expert, said Wednesday that Cook's minimum speed at the time of impact is estimated at 75 to 82 mph. 

Defense attorneys tried to discredit Bradford's testimony by arguing that evidence doesn't show how fast Shapiro was traveling when she turned on to Strickland Road, so Bradford's reconstruction calculations are only based on assumptions.

Bradford contended that he relied on observations made at the intersection after the crash to determine that people typically turn from Lead Mine Road to Strickland Road at a speed of 5 to 15 mph.

If Shapiro was traveling 5 mph, Bradford said, Cook's minimum speed at impact would be 82 mph. If she was traveling 15 mph, his minimum speed would be 75 mph, Bradford said.

Raymond Cook, Elena Shapiro crash pictures Jurors view graphic crash scene photos in Cook murder trial

Bradford was on the stand earlier Wednesday when prosecutors showed jurors photos of Cook's Mercedes-Benz, Shapiro's Hyundai Elantra, skid marks left by tires on the road and other photos of the crash scene.

One photo, which WRAL News is not posting online, shows the inside of Shapiro's car after the crash. Bradford pointed out to jurors a large blood stain on the passenger seat and a clump of Shapiro's blonde hair, which was torn out in the crash and can be seen behind the driver's seat.

The photo also shows keys in the ignition, the car still in drive and the driver's seat slightly elevated and pushed forward near the steering wheel. One of Shapiro's flip-flops is also seen in the car near her seat belt buckle.

Other photos can be seen in this slideshow.

A Mercedes-Benz expert testified Tuesday that Cook's car was traveling 88 mph before he crashed into Shapiro's Hyundai at Strickland and Lead Mine roads. The posted speed limit in that area is 45 mph.

An emergency room doctor testified last week that Cook's blood-alcohol concentration was 0.24. An alcohol testing expert testified Tuesday that Cook's blood-alcohol concentration may have been closer to 0.20. Defense attorneys argues that scientific standard deviation could drop that number to 0.17.

Under North Carolina law, a driver is considered impaired with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08.

Witnesses have testified that Cook drank alcohol at the Raleigh Country Club and later at Piper's Tavern prior to the fatal crash.

Defense attorneys haven’t denied that Cook had been drinking but contended in opening statements last week that he’s innocent of second-degree murder because of his attempt to help Shapiro after the crash.

Prosecutors have contended that, because Cook had been drinking, the wreck was not an accident.

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.

249 Comments

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  • Miscellaneous Feb 24, 2011

    it was nice not to have go's drivel all over the place today

  • bbam Feb 24, 2011

    Putting Marsha on the stand might backfire. She stated she first saw Cook at about 6:30 & outside 45 to 60 minutes later with a women who had unkempt blond streaked hair pulled back in a bun or pony tail and at least twice as blond (and months ago to a cop as bushy blond). That simply doesn't jive with her testimoney that Cook left Piper's at around 8:15. She said she never saw Cook with anyone inside Pipers. The DA's might also regret trying to back door the jury by continually working in the description of the women first seen sitting and drinking with Cook at 7:30 -- the women who according to the manager and waitress had straight dark shoulder length hair, i.e., she is not Kelly Clark, the blond bushy haired girl Cook was making out with outside. In closing arguments the defense might use Marsha's mistaken timeline and biddy demeanor (and that neither of the women with Cook on the 11th testified) to discredit Marsha's testimony and create doubt obout his behavior at Pipers.

  • Miscellaneous Feb 24, 2011

    Henderson was being chased by the police when the hit & run occurred. Skipping / ignoring that fact is a large differentiator between the cases.

  • Ven Feb 24, 2011

    @Misc - I'm sure you don't actually believe half the stuff you say, but your pov makes no sense - that same logic would apply to anyone/anything that has ever happened. The people killed in 9/11 should have never gone to work, they knew once before the building had tried to be destroyed, moreover if something DID happen they should know the risk of being so high up.
    For the record, I don't think the DA proved 'intent' but did prove recklessly poor judgment and callousness

  • Miscellaneous Feb 24, 2011

    it is just a guess, but I would not be surprised that the prosecution was surprised by the defense resting. Left alot of unanswered questions, many previously mentioned, and goes a long way to create reasonable doubt..

  • Ven Feb 24, 2011

    Cook's prior may really come back to haunt him (strange it didn't get brought up unless the DA if waiting until closing arguments) b/c in order to get his license back, he would have had to take an intensive course about the inherit risks of driving drunk - so in a sense he should be more of an expert than most on this matter.

  • Miscellaneous Feb 24, 2011

    das - one minor issue.. that careless assumption put in front of speeding car. I'm sure she wishes she paid a little more attention, and lived, vs assuming and died.

    I, for one, don't assume. I find out by watching the approaching traffic.... and not driving a tin car.

  • Ven Feb 24, 2011

    @DasG, he hit /run, was running from cops and techincally got 28 years for 2DM...albeit, very similiar in the result - though the difference in demographics will be very intersting in how it plays out.

  • InterestedDoc Feb 24, 2011

    Also, the prosecution never raised Cook's prior DWI. That was 20 years ago, but one would think that it would still have relevance (even if minor) to the malice aspect. I believe the prosecution made a strong case, given the overwhelming strength of the facts (all essentially stipulated to by the defense), but they potentially could have made it even stronger with the prior DWI and other incriminating facts that they did not raise or develop (e.g., iPhone, Kelly Carr being able to drive him, etc.)

  • wral42 Feb 24, 2011

    I am just wondering in a situation like..
    A person goes to a bar...fills himself up with liquor and decides to go outside drunk and using his licensed gun sprays some bullets around "with no intentions of killing anyone" ...and it so happens that people decide to be doing their own things right out there there and get "gifted" by these bullets which "aid" them in ending their life.
    So, shouldn't it be those peoples fault for being there?? The person didn't intended to kill anyone. He just wanted to set some bullets free from his licensed gun.
    Maybe in this case, he should be given 2nd degree or whatever and maybe 2 years or whatever. Maybe he can return back after his term and do this good deed all over again.

    --- Anyone see any problem here?

    People who support Cook, should find absolutely no problem in the above situation.

    All other who are against Cook.. should probably get a chill pill. Yes, I already took mine. Lets work harder to payoff this waste of $$ by our gov.t

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