Promising Ballerina Killed by Drunk Driver
A witness made an urgent 911 call about a horrific two–car accident. The cars were mangled and the life of a beautiful young ballerina was cut short.
911 Operator: "How many people are hurt?"
Caller: "It's a young girl. Oh my God."
911 Operator: "Is she awake?"
Caller: "It's critical. She's struggling to breathe."
20-year-old Elena Shapiro was a stunning ballerina with an incomparable talent. She started dancing as a little girl, and her mother Brantly Shapiro remembers how she lit up the stage.
"To see her on stage was illuminating," she tells INSIDE EDITION.
Elena discovered her passion for ballet when she was just 10 years old. She was considered a rising star and was about to perform "Swan Lake" with the prestigious Carolina Ballet when tragedy struck.
Elena had been rehearsing long and hard for "Swan Lake." She was behind the wheel of her car in Raleigh, North Carolina, when her grey Hyundai was hit from behind by a speeding Mercedes.
What was shocking to many was the man behind the wheel of the car that struck Elena, prominent plastic surgeon Raymond Cook.
"He drank beer, he drank whiskey...His blood alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit," says INSIDE EDITION's Paul Boyd.
"It's unfathomable, really," Brantly says.
Elena's mangled car was brought to the courthouse for jurors to see. The 44-year-old plastic surgeon sat stone-faced through the trial. His only sign of emotion came when he wiped away tears as a tribute video to Elena was played in court.
After three days of deliberations, the jury came back with a verdict of involuntary manslaughter.
A lot of people thought Dr. Cook should have been convicted of second degree murder. Elena's aunt, Annie Bright, expressed her anger about his sentencing to the court.
"That was no accident to me, it was not just a wreck, it was a deliberate act by Dr. Cook, who knew better, but chose to get in that lethal weapon and kill our darling Elena," she said tearfully.
"A lot of people are outraged at this sentence. He'll spend as little as three years behind bars while your daughter is gone forever," Paul Boyd tells Brantly.
"It's very disappointing when justice doesn't seem to be served," says Brantly. "She's right here, she really is. She's in our hearts, she goes with us everywhere."