Local News

Jury seated in doctor's murder trial

Posted February 14, 2011 5:00 a.m. EST
Updated February 24, 2011 9:45 a.m. EST

— 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.

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."