WILMINGTON, Ohio - Shannon Hodson sat in the front row of a Clinton County courtroom Tuesday exchanging knowing looks and mouthing "I love you" with a man accused of killing his former girlfriend.
In the second day of jury selection Tuesday, Vincent Doan's new girlfriend was among the friends and family supporting him as his murder trial begins. Mr. Doan faces two counts of aggravated murder and four counts of kidnapping in the death of Carrie Culberson. Although Ms. Culberson's body has never been found, investigators say they think Mr. Doan killed her after an argument Aug. 29. If convicted as charged, Mr. Doan could be sentenced to death.
Ms. Hodson, 20, of Wilmington, met Mr. Doan, 24, of Blanchester, Ohio, in May 1996, three months before Ms. Culberson disappeared. Ms. Hodson and Mr. Doan began dating in September, weeks after Ms. Culberson vanished.
Despite the charges, Ms. Hodson believes Mr. Doan is incapable of hurting someone.
"You get a lot of hard looks and comments from people, but he's been good to me; he's been good to my baby," Ms. Hodson said. Mr. Doan is not the biological father but has been helping to raise her 10-month-old daughter, Haley, she said.
Now mother and daughter see Mr. Doan during twice-weekly visits to the jail in Warren County where he is being held.
Ms. Hodson said it is difficult to listen to prosecutors portray her boyfriend as a villain.
For that reason, she has helped Mr. Doan's mother distribute posters featuring him holding her baby with the caption: "Innocent until proven guilty. Vincent Doan."
The flier campaign mimics one started by friends and family of Ms. Culberson when she disappeared.
Ms. Hodson has received a lot of unwelcome attention for her relationship with Mr. Doan. It doesn't help that she has been told she resembles Ms. Culberson, in her long, black curly hair, slender build and olive complexion.
"I think it is our hair really, I don't think we look that much alike - and I'm definitely not like her (Ms. Culberson)," Ms. Hodson said outside the courtroom Tuesday. Ms. Hodson said she had never met Ms. Culberson but knew who she was.
Ms. Hodson said she'll keep shrugging off those who either curse or counsel her for having a relationship with Mr. Doan.
"I had one lady say, 'You're the next one; you're going to be the next one on the poster,' " Ms. Hodson said.