Tuesday, August 5, 1997
Both sides in Doan case
imply witnesses lying;
jury deliberates

BY LISA DONOVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Carrie Culberson
Carrie Culberson

Vincent Doan
Vincent Doan

WILMINGTON, Ohio - Before jurors went behind closed doors Monday to deliberate the fate of accused murderer Vincent Doan, they were warned by both sides that witnesses for the other side might have lied.

During four hours of closing arguments in Clinton County Common Pleas Court on Monday, prosecuting and defense attorneys spent as much time attacking the credibility of opposing witnesses as they did reiterating their own cases.

Mr. Doan, 25, of Blanchester, is charged with killing girlfriend Carrie Culberson early Aug. 29. If convicted, he could be sentenced to die.

Jurors deliberated until 9 p.m. Monday, then were sequestered to resume discussions today.

Ms. Culberson's body has never been found, a point Mr. Doan's attorney, John Rion, seized upon in suggesting she still may be alive.

He questioned the credibility of prosecution witnesses who testified either that they saw Mr. Doan threaten Ms. Culberson, strike her, or saw Mr. Doan covered with blood Aug. 29.

Mr. Rion said that two prosecution witnesses had criminal records and suggested that two others, related to Mr. Doan through marriage, had scores to settle with his family.

Billie Jo Brown, Mr. Doan's Blanchester neighbor who testified she saw Mr. Doan punch Ms. Culberson and threaten her didn't contact police immediately, Mr. Rion said. She has been convicted of writing bad checks.

Lori Baker, Mr. Doan's former sister-in-law, who said she saw Mr. Doan ''covered in blood'' and provided other key testimony, admitted having a ''glorious'' affair with Mr. Doan, allegedly to make her husband jealous, Mr. Rion noted.

Vicki Watkins, Mrs. Baker's twin, who also said she saw Mr. Doan covered in blood, had testified she spent the night at the home of Lori Baker on Aug. 29, but her 14-year-old nephew, Christopher Baker, testified that Ms. Watkins did not stay overnight Aug. 29, the lawyer said.

Mitchell Epperson, West Chester, who said Mr. Doan confessed, while they were in jail together, to killing Ms. Culberson is a ''multicounty offender'' whose rap sheet includes theft and burglary convictions.

County Prosecutor William Peelle said that none of the witnesses stood to gain anything from their testimony in this trial, now in its fourth week.

Instead, Mr. Peelle hammered on Mr. Doan and his family. Mr. Peelle suggested that Mr. Doan, his half brother Tracey Baker and their father, Lawrence Baker, either had a hand in Ms. Culberson's slaying or helped cover it up or both.

He even suggested that Lawrence Baker made up an alibi for his son, the morning of Aug. 29 - the same time Mr. Doan is alleged to have kidnapped and killed Ms. Culberson.

Mr. Peelle set forth this scenario: Between 12:30 a.m. and 1 a.m. Aug. 29, Mr. Doan and Ms. Culberson were in a violent argument in his neighbor's yard. After punching Ms. Culberson, he forced her into her car. The two drove around until Mr. Doan ended up in Marathon, where Mr. Doan made a phone call to his father from a friend's home.

Mr. Peelle said that Mr. Doan was seeking his advice on what to do with Ms. Culberson - not about car problems. Mr. Doan then hung up the phone and went to Ms. Culberson and watched her die.

Mr. Peelle described the murder as an exclamation point to a relationship punctuated by abuse and obsession:

In the days after she was reported missing, Mr. Doan's six to seven daily calls to her workplace and numerous calls to her gymnasium ceased, he said. Mr. Doan declined Debra Culberson's invitation to search for her daughter.

''This man goes from obsessive to indifference on Aug. 29 because he knows Carrie Culberson is dead and there is nothing left for him to be obsessed about.''