Local News

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

Posted November 2, 2010 11:12 a.m. EDT
Updated November 2, 2010 6:23 p.m. EDT

— 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."