Friday, August 8, 1997
Circumstantial case brought almost opposite strategies

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Obtaining a conviction without a body forced Clinton County prosecutors to prove not only that Carrie Culberson did not leave of her own will but also that Vincent Doan had an opportunity and motive to kill her.

Prosecutors tried to show:

  • Her ties to the community and her family. Ms. Culberson had just taken a nursing placement test at a nearby community college, and she had talked about how she looked forward to watching her sister finish high school. She refused several offers from family and friends to hide her. from Mr. Doan.

  • Mr. Doan had become increasingly angry with Ms. Culberson, who filed assault charges against him a month before she disappeared. She told friends that he had threatened to kill her and her family. The morning Ms. Culberson disappeared, a witness saw Mr. Doan punch her and say, "I told you next time I'd kill you."

    The defense, on the other hand, tried to raise doubt, bringing in 19 witnesses who said they saw Ms. Culberson or her car after Aug. 29, 1996. To show reasonable doubt, they argued that:

  • Without a body, the prosecution couldn't prove a murder or kidnapping had occurred.

  • Ms. Culberson had become increasingly independent in the months before she was reported missing and had left on her own. The defense suggested that she also might have taken off because she had gotten mixed up with drugs and a rough crowd.