Authorities bring ballerina's wrecked car to court

Elena Shapiro's car parked outside the Wake County Courthouse during Raymond Cook's trial on Feb. 18, 2011.

February 18, 2011 4:08:14 PM PST
On Friday afternoon, authorities brought Elena Shapiro's vehicle to the front of the courthouse in downtown Raleigh. The car was parked outside of the courthouse as evidence in the trial against the Raleigh plastic surgeon who caused the wreck that killed the 20-year-old ballerina on September 11, 2009.

Cook is charged with second-degree murder, felony death by motor vehicle, and driving while impaired in the death of Shapiro.

Police say Raymond 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.

The car immediately drew a crowd of bystanders, prompting Cook's attorneys to argue that the scene was a spectacle and that the car didn't look like it did the night of the crash.

A section of the bumper wrapped around the side had been removed, but jurors were told that before they came down to look at the vehicle. They were also told there were other markings on the car from that night that were not on it now.

Defense attorneys said that included blood on the driver's door handle from Cook's hand, they say, was cut in the wreck. They claimed the blood was left on the door handle when Cook tried to get Shapiro out of the car.

The grill of Cook's car, however, was still apparently lodged in the rear of Shapiro's vehicle.

Despite arguements, the judge overruled Cook's attorneys' objections and allowed the jury view.

Cook waived his right to be present at the viewing.

Earlier in the day, testimony revealed that the Raleigh doctor had been falling down drunk, acting obnoxiously and was making out with a woman who wasn't his wife in the hours before the accident.

The testimony about Cook making out with another woman is something the doctor's attorneys did not want the jury to hear Friday.

Everyone except the jury knew it was coming and before the witness could say what she saw, the defense objected and sent the jury out of the room.

Marcia Hale took the stand and told jurors she saw the former doctor the night of the fatal crash. She says she was a customer at Piper's Tavern on Falls of Neuse Road in Raleigh and saw Cook walk to the restroom.

"Weaving stumbling, noticeably intoxicated, ran into chair, hit booth, bumped into wall, rounded corner, fell down," Hale described.

Hale wasn't the only one who saw Cook drunk in the hours before the crash.

A member of the Raleigh Country Club says he played golf behind Cook that September day and then saw him at the club bar afterward.

"During discussion he appeared agitated, and was using foul language and made the comment that f----- b----," witness Lee Panosian said.

Panosian says he was so embarrassed that he and his guest didn't finish their beer and left the bar.

Panosian, who tended bar in college, says Cook was clearly impaired.

Later at Piper's Tavern, Hale said she asked a manager to quit serving Cook and throw him out.

She says about an hour later, she was outside in a parking lot and saw Cook embraced with a woman - a woman that did not at all fit the description of Cook's wife.

"Grabbing her, grabbing on her bottom, kissing her," Hale said. "They were making out."

After listening to the testimony, the judge decided to let it in, but limited the content - Hale told jurors about the embrace, but not the grabbing and kissing.

A few hours after the fatal crash, police showed up at the bar and started asking the manager about Cook.

"I asked if he hurt someone," witness Christina Runyon said. "He said he couldn't answer that. I asked if he killed someone and he just looked away."

On Thursday, an emergency room doctor testified that Raymond Cook had blood-alcohol levels of .245 and .240 in two separate tests the night his car smashed into the 20-year-old dancer.

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.

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