WILMINGTON, Ohio - Vincent Doan's former sister-in-law is expected to testify that he was covered with blood early on Aug. 29 - the last time his girlfriend, Carrie Culberson, was seen alive, Clinton County Prosecutor Bill Peelle said Monday.
"He had blood on his arms, he had blood on his stomach, he had blood on his pants," Mr. Peelle told jurors during opening statements in the murder trial of Mr. Doan.
Prosecutors say Mr. Doan went to see his half-brother, Tracey Baker, who was living with Lori Baker, his former wife, at their home in Blanchester about 3:15 a.m. on Aug. 29. That was about two hours after a witness saw Mr. Doan punch and threaten Ms. Culberson in front of his home, also in Blanchester, prosecutors say.
Ms. Baker saw Mr. Doan standing in the back yard, wearing only a pair of jeans and covered in blood, Mr. Peelle said. The brothers had a brief conversation before Mr. Doan came in the Baker home and took a shower.
A short time later - between 3:30 a.m. and 4 a.m. - Mr. Baker and Mr. Doan left with garbage bags and a gun, Mr. Peelle told jurors. In his opening remarks, John Rion, Mr. Doan's attorney, dismissed Ms. Baker's upcoming testimony because of a statement she allegedly made to her son:
"Christopher Baker said his mother Lori (said) she dreamed this," Mr. Rion told the jurors.
Mr. Doan, 24, is charged with two counts of aggravated murder, which makes him eligible for the death penalty, and four counts of kidnapping. But his attorney insisted Monday that there was no case for murder, much less kidnapping.
He told jurors that either Ms. Culberson or her 1989 red Honda CRX, or both, had been seen in the Cincinnati area at least 15 times, including a sighting in May by a Norwood police officer. Ms. Culberson might have left of her own volition, Mr. Rion suggested.
But Mr. Peelle portrayed Ms. Culberson as a happy-go-lucky 22-year-old who was devoted to her family, friends and job. She was conscientious about her work as a nail technician and would call if she thought she might be just a few minutes late. She had no reason to leave, no reason not to contact her family and friends for 10 months, Mr. Peelle said.
Ms. Culberson did have some problems, especially with her boyfriend, Mr. Doan, according to Mr. Peelle. He told the jurors about their violent relationship, including a July 1996 incident in which Mr. Doan allegedly threw a space heater at Ms. Culberson. At a hospital, doctors had to use five medical staples to close a head wound. Ms. Culberson then filed assault charges against her boyfriend.
Prosecutors allege that those charges might have been a motive in Ms. Culberson's slaying. In the week leading up to her disappearance, Ms. Culberson and Mr. Doan talked, and often fought.
After a night of playing volleyball on Aug. 28, friends dropped her off at home. That was about 11:30 p.m. An hour later - about 12:30 a.m. Aug. 29 - Ms. Culberson and Mr. Doan were seen arguing in front of his home.
"Carrie was heard screaming for help, screaming for someone to help her," Mr. Peelle told the jurors. That witness is Billy Jo Brown, Mr. Doan's neighbor, who allegedly watched as Mr. Doan "smashed his fist into Ms. Culberson's face" and threatened her life.
'(Mr. Doan) said to her, 'I told you the next time I'd kill you, " Mr. Peelle told the jurors repeatedly. A short time later, Ms. Culberson, her car and Mr. Doan were nowhere in sight.
Days later, Mr. Peelle said, during a television report of Ms. Culberson's disappearance, Mr. Doan turned to Ms. Baker and said: "You don't know what it's like to hold someone until they die." Mr. Rion concedes that Ms. Culberson stopped by his client's home early on Aug. 29. But it was a brief visit because she wanted to go to a bar in Marathon and Mr. Doan declined her invitation, Mr. Rion said.
After she left, Mr. Doan became concerned because he thought Ms. Culberson had been drinking. He drove to Marathon, but could not find Ms. Culberson. After having some car troubles, he returned home and went to bed.
It is unclear when Ms. Baker will take the stand, because Mr. Peelle declined to comment on when his witnesses will be testifying.