BY RICHELLE THOMPSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer
WILMINGTON, Ohio -- Vincent Doan murdered Carrie Culberson, but he didn't try to cover up the crime alone, Clinton County Prosecutor Bill Peele said Tuesday.
His father helped him, Mr. Peele claimed.
Mr. Peele and defense attorney Paris K. Ellis made their opening statements Tuesday in the trial of Lawrence Baker, Mr. Doan's father. Mr. Baker faces three felony charges: two counts of obstructing justice and a count of tampering with evidence.
Mr. Peele contends that Mr. Baker provided a false alibi for his son on Aug. 29, 1996, the day Ms. Culberson, 22, disappeared. Although her body has never been found, a jury found Mr. Doan guilty of her murder, for which he is serving a life sentence. His half brother -- Tracey Baker, another of Mr. Baker's children -- is serving eight years for his role in covering up the crime.
The prosecutor argued that Lawrence Baker also hid a scrub brush that Mr. Doan had used to remove Ms. Culberson's blood, which had splattered on Mr. Doan and on a T-shirt worn by Tracey Baker on the night of the murder.
Further, Mr. Baker knew that bloodhounds had picked up Ms. Culberson's scent in a pond at his junkyard, Mr. Peele said. When police returned the next day and drained the pond, they found what appeared to be fresh footsteps and indications that something had been dragged from the muddy bottom, he said.
According to Mr. Ellis, the charges are false. Mr. Baker fully cooperated with police, he said. He allowed them to search the junkyard without a search warrant. In fact, Mr. Ellis said, the only time Mr. Baker became angry with police is when they returned with a search warrant to investigate the property a third time.
"He didn't think they needed to get a search warrant," Mr. Ellis said.
Instead of charging Mr. Baker with obstructing justice or tampering with evidence, Mr. Ellis suggested that Lori Baker, Tracey Baker's former wife, might be a more likely candidate.
He said she threw the T-shirt into a garbage can and asked for Mr. Baker's advice on how to handle questions from the police.
The jury of five men and seven women, including a mother and daughter, visited some of the spots in Blanchester and northern Clermont County that prosecutors consider pivotal to Ms. Culberson's murder. It saw the pink and white pansies outside the narrow, two-story house where Mr. Doan lived in 1996.
Prosecutors say a witness saw Mr. Doan punching Ms. Culberson near the home the night she disappeared.
They wandered around Tracey Baker's house, which looks abandoned now. Prosecutors say Mr. Doan appeared on the back porch of the small, white home covered in blood in the early morning of Aug. 29, 1996. Dogs greeted the jurors at the junkyard. Rusted, abandoned cars, tires and old appliances created an unsafe path to the pond, the defense and prosecution teams agreed -- so, without seeing the pond, the jurors boarded the bus again.
The trial continues today.