Tuesday, September 23, 1997
Doan's half-brother nabbed
Culberson suspect found at truck stop

BY CHRISTINE WOLFF and JANE PRENDERGAST
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FLORENCE, Ky. - A tip led to the predawn arrest Monday of a suspect in the Carrie Culberson murder case, ending the man's plans for a "last fling" with his girlfriend, police said.

TRacey Baker
Tracey Baker
Florence police arrested Tracey Baker, 33, of Blanchester, Ohio, about 4 a.m. Monday near the Burns Brothers truck plaza on Ky. 18. Mr. Baker, a long-distance truck driver, ran from police but was quickly taken into custody.

Mr. Baker is accused of helping his half brother, Vincent Doan, 25, get rid of Ms. Culberson's body and cover up her death in August 1996. Mr. Doan, her former boyfriend, was convicted Aug. 7 of kidnapping and murdering her. Her body and car have not been found.

Tracey Baker faces felony charges of two counts of obstructing justice, one count of tampering with evidence and one count of gross abuse of a corpse.

Prosecutors say Mr. Doan and Mr. Baker left Mr. Baker's Blanchester house with plastic garbage bags the night Ms. Culberson disappeared and that Mr. Baker returned with blood splattered on his clothes and body.

"We've gotten information that the body was dismembered. Now do I know that definitely? No, I don't," said Rick Moyer, an assistant county prosecutor.

Mr. Moyer wouldn't elaborate on what prosecutors think happened to Ms. Culberson's body, but did describe what they think led to Tracey Baker's involvement:

Mr. Doan and Ms. Culberson fought, Mr. Doan hit her and she was dead or dying when he telephoned his father, Lawrence Baker. rence basically told Vincent, 'You take care of your problem, then you go find your brother and he'll help you clean up your mess,' " Mr. Moyer said.

Lawrence Baker, 53, was arrested Sept. 15 on charges of obstructing justice and tampering with evidence for allegedly helping cover up the crime. He has pleaded not guilty.

Lawrence Baker, out on $105,000 bail, said Monday that his family is innocent.

"They are trying to hold me for ransom to get Vincent to tell them something, and he don't know nothing," Lawrence Baker said. Tracey Baker, arrested Monday, remained in the Boone County Jail without bond.

Mr. Moyer said prosecutors want to "get a conviction and put them in jail. . . . They deserve to go to prison."

Tracey Baker's arrest completes an 11-count indictment brought Sept. 15 by a Clinton County grand jury.

Also indicted was now-suspended Blanchester Police Chief Richard Payton, who has pleaded not guilty to obstructing justice and dereliction of duty. Prosecutors allege Mr. Payton mishandled the investigation.

Tracey Baker could not reach his attorney Monday in time for a court appearance so he was to remain in the Boone County Jail under $250,000 cash bond.

Florence police received a call about 9 p.m. Sunday from Clinton County authorities, who said Tracey Baker might be at Burns Brothers. Officers responded immediately but didn't find Mr. Baker - only his tractor-trailer rig, with his name painted on it.

They spoke to a woman who approached the truck, and she told them she was Mr. Baker's girlfriend, Sgt. Bruce Graham said.

Police said the couple had tried to get the truck earlier, but left when they saw police. She allegedly dropped Mr. Baker at TJ's sports bar in Florence, then sneaked back to hide the truck keys so he could get the rig later. Police were nearby when he returned.

"He said he wanted this past weekend to be his last fling," Sgt. Graham said. "I guess he knew it might be awhile before he might be out again."

Lisa Donovan contributed to this report.