Wednesday, January 1, 1997
Buried meat not woman's remains
Freezer in Warren Co. held food for pet lion

The Cincinnati Enquirer

HARLAN TOWNSHIP - Meat intended for a pet lion - not the remains of 22-year-old Carrie Culberson - was inside a freezer dug up Monday by police.

''It's not human,'' Ken Betz, director of the Miami Valley Regional Crime Laboratory in Dayton, said Tuesday. The Montgomery County lab examined more than 15 bags of decaying animal flesh unearthed at a southeastern Warren County farm.

The farm is about two miles from the Blanchester home of Ms. Culberson, who has been missing since August. It is leased by Lawrence Baker, father of Vincent Doan, who is Ms. Culberson's former boyfriend.

Reached at home Tuesday in Blanchester, Lawrence Baker's wife said she buried spoiling deer and cow meat in July to get rid of the stench after the freezer's Freon ran out. Betty Baker said she had collected the meat to feed to Leo, a pet lion she gave away a year ago after neighbors complained.

''They're wasting the taxpayers' money,'' Mrs. Baker said. ''All that's in there is deer meat, road kills and old rags from the shed. It had nothing to do with the Culberson case.''

Ms. Culberson's family watched anxiously Monday as Clinton and Warren County sheriff deputies plowed the freezer from a field adjacent to the yard of her uncle, Chuck Culberson.

At the Miami Valley lab, forensic experts X-rayed the bone structure of the decomposed flesh found inside the freezer, wrapped in plastic grocery and trash bags.

''It appeared to be a large animal,'' likely a deer or cow, said Mr. Betz, whose lab regularly conducts autopsies for Warren and Clinton counties.

Ms. Culberson's parents were relieved to hear their daughter's remains were not in the freezer.

''That's great,'' Debbie Culberson said. ''You wouldn't want to see your daughter spend the last moments of her life like that.''

Authorities have not identified Mr. Doan as a suspect. However, Mrs. Culberson has said Mr. Doan might know something about her daughter's disappearance.

Mr. Doan is serving a 90-day sentence in the Hamilton County Justice Center for driving with a suspended license. He is to be released in mid-February.

Relatives of Mr. Doan deny the 24-year-old man knows what happened to Ms. Culberson.

''We're the only ones they keep circling in on,'' Mrs. Baker said of the police search for Ms. Culberson. ''We tried to save them the time of digging for this, of digging out this freezer.''

Mr. Doan has hired a private detective from Dayton to investigate Ms. Culberson's disappearance and is cooperating with police, his lawyer, John Rion, said Tuesday.

Clinton County Prosecutor William Peelle declined Tuesday to discuss why investigators waited until this week to search the property. After spotting a freshly dug hole in the Bakers' rented field in the fall, Chuck Culberson said, he became suspicious and notified police.

Under court order, the search warrant obtained in Warren County has been sealed.

The Culbersons still are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for Ms. Culberson's disappearance.

''We just keep looking for her and hoping that somebody comes forward and tells us ... her location,'' said Chuck Culberson. ''We keep searching.''