Local News

Bar owner: Doctor was inebriated before fatal crash

Posted September 15, 2009 10:38 p.m. EDT
Updated September 23, 2009 6:58 p.m. EDT

— 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.