Trial Begins for Doctor Charged in Ballerina's Death

Elena Bright Shapiro

This is a story everyone remembers. On September 11, 2009, Dr. Raymond Cook went drinking…then drank some more…then got behind the wheel and caused the wreck that killed Elena Bright Shapiro, a promising ballerina with the Carolina Ballet.

According to an article on, Cook’s trial begins today.

Raleigh police said Cook, of 10516 Beckridge Lane, was traveling 90 mph when he crashed into the back of 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.

Cook, a former plastic surgeon, surrendered his medical license and went to rehab. He is charged with second-degree murder, driving while impaired, and felony death by vehicle. He was offered a plea deal in May, but Cook didn’t accept it.

His trial begins on the day when the medical journal The Lancet published the results of a study that found that alcohol is the most dangerous of all drugs, including heroin and crystal meth, in terms of the amount of harm it does to individuals and to society. This case could be exhibit 1: A young woman’s promising life is snuffed out… her family must live with the traumatic aftermath of this tragedy… a a physician’s career is destroyed… his family suffers… and a community is left with the remnants of memories of two lives that should have soared. Except that alcohol, hubris, and bad judgment destroyed them.

“You can’t imagine a bigger tragedy,” said Robert Weiss, the artistic director of the Carolina Ballet. “A beautiful, young girl, who’s talented and at the prime of her career, getting cut down like that and not having a chance to live her dream.”

This is a haunting tragedy with so many levels of pain. As the holiday season nears, with all the requisite parties, the attorneys of HensonFuerst would like to take this opportunity to remind you that even two drinks can impair your ability to navigate a 2,000-pound vehicle. Please don’t drink and drive; we don’t need anymore alcohol-related tragedies.

Follow the story of the trial here:

Read about the study that found alcohol to be the deadliest drug here: HensonFuerst blog

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