Raleigh doctor convicted in ballerina death released

Dr. Raymond Cook released from Wake Correctional Center in Raleigh Friday
February 28, 2014 10:16:56 AM PST
Dr. Raymond Cook - the Raleigh plastic surgeon convicted in the 2009 death of an aspiring dancer with the Carolina ballet - was released from the Wake Correctional Center Friday.

Officials with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety said Cook will be on post-release supervision by a probation officer for nine months.

In 2011, Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III sentenced Cook - a former employee of WakeMed - to 36 to 53 months in prison in the death of Elena Shapiro after a Wake County jury found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Cook was also found guilty of felony death by motor vehicle and driving while impaired.

Prosecutors said Cook was driving at more than 80 miles-per-hour in a 45 zone when he plowed into the back of 20-year-old Shapiro's car on Strickland Road September 11, 2009.

Cook began his sentence on March 1, 2011.  While he was sentenced to minimum three years - maximum 4 ½, Cook only had to serve the minimum because he had no infractions, good behavior, and worked.   A prison job gives you "earned time" to help ensure you only have to serve the minimum.  He worked in various jobs around the prison system and then on work release near end of sentence.

The conviction was not Cook's first. Records show he was stopped Camden County, Georgia in 1989 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.

During Cook's trial, evidence showed he began drinking the afternoon of September 11 while playing golf at the Raleigh Country Club. He later left and went to Piper's Tavern where a manager refused to serve him another drink after noticing he was intoxicated. A witness said she saw Cook and a woman in the parking lot of Piper's and asked if he had a ride.

But prosecutors said Cook got behind the wheel anyway. After leaving Piper's, witnesses testified that Cook was travelling at high speed in his black Mercedes down Strickland Road before he ran a red light at Lead Mine Road. Shapiro had just made a right turn from Lead Mine on to Strickland when Cook hit her from behind. The force of the crash crushed Shapiro's car.

A Mercedes mechanic testified that the computer in Cook's car showed it was moving at 88 miles per hour at impact.

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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