Trial begins for doctor accused of killing ballerina

Raymond Cook appears in a Wake County courtroom

February 14, 2011 9:18:10 AM PST
The trial of a Raleigh doctor charged with murder in the DWI crash that took the life of a young ballerina began Monday.

Raymond Cook is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 20-year-old Elena Shapiro. Police say Cook was intoxicated and driving more than 80 miles an hour in a 45 mph zone just before he crashed into Shapiro's car on Strickland Road in Raleigh in September of 2009.

Shapiro - of Winston-Salem - was a dancer with the Carolina Ballet.

Jury selection began Monday after Judge Osmond heard last minute motions from attorneys. Jury selection is expected to take 1-2 days.

Witnesses said Cook was seen at Piper's Tavern on Falls of the Neuse Road drinking with an unidentified woman before the accident.

A manager at Piper's Tavern told ABC11 that a bartender noticed he was drunk and cut him off when he ordered a second drink. The manager said Cook then left with the woman and staff members assumed he had a ride.

The manager said he was told that before coming to his tavern, Dr. Cook spent much of the day at the Raleigh Country Club - a golf course near WakeMed where he performed plastic surgery.

Following the crash, Cook gave up his medical license and left positions he once held at WakeMed and the UNC School of Medicine. According to WakeMed hospital's website, Cook was a facial reconstructive expert.

Cook has pleaded not guilty to the charge. A pre-trial motion even gives him the option of admitting involuntary manslaughter to jurors to try to convince them that he is not a murderer.

Cook's trial was supposed to begin in November, but an error on an indictment forced a delay.

ABC11 has 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.

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