Doctor appears in court for fatal crash

September 15, 2009 4:46:44 AM PDT
A Wake County plastic surgeon accused of killing a ballerina in a drunk-driving crash over the weekend walked into court Monday with his wife and pastor by his side.Elena Shapiro a 20-year-old dancer with the Carolina Ballet died when her Hyundai was hit from behind.

Raleigh police said Wake Med surgeon Raymond Cook was driving 85 in a 45 mile-per-hour zone on Strickland Road when the accident happened.

She was just beginning a professional career as a ballerina when her life was cut short.

The Carolina Ballet is ranked among the top 10 ballet companies in America and second year member Shapiro was a promising part of that company.

"All of a sudden ? this young, beautiful, talented girl is no longer with us," Carolina Ballet CEO Robert Weiss said.

Weiss said he, his staff and his dancers are all still in shock.

"They're not just losing a colleague, they're losing a friend," he said.

They are especially upset that a local doctor has been charged not only with killing her while traveling almost twice as fast as the posted speed limit, but also that he was allegedly drunk.

The plastic surgeon could face more than eight years in prison for the accident.

Cook's Record

Late Monday afternoon, Eyewitness News confirmed that this was not the first time Cook had been charged with going well over the speed limit while intoxicated.

In 1989 in Camden County, Georgia, he was stopped for doing 110 in 65 miles-per-hour zone. He was also charged with DWI.

Court records in North Carolina show that same year he was charged with DWI in this state, but the charges were dropped.

Three years earlier, he was charged with driving too fast for conditions.

Before facing a judge Monday, he came to court with his minister and wife. She held his hand as he waited to be called up with his attorney.

"He's obviously distraught," Cook's attorney Roger Smith, Jr. said. "This is such a tragedy that's happened and he's just trying to get by day by day. He's just flooded with so many emotions right now."

Now, some wonder if his medical license is in jeopardy.

The state medical board would not say what they will do, but what happens to his medical license could likely depend on the outcome of the case.

Remembering Shapiro

While the doctor is out of jail on bond, the Carolina Ballet's performance of Swan Lake -that begins this week- will go on without Shapiro, but her memory will be present at the three weeks of shows at Raleigh's Center for the Performing Arts. Every performance will be dedicated to her.

"She will be missed," Weiss said. "She was a talented girl, but she was also a very sweet girl."

Shapiro grew up in Winston-Salem and graduated from the high school of the UNC School of the Arts. There is now a dance scholarship at the school named in her honor.

A makeshift memorial has also been setup on Strickland Road since the accident.

A funeral service is scheduled for Shapiro Tuesday at noon at the chapel on Wake Forest University's campus in Winston-Salem.

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