Officers: Dogs found scent of victim at Baker's pond

Friday, August 21, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

WILMINGTON -- The snorts of a bloodhound at a pond in Lawrence Baker's junkyard on Sept. 4, 1996, indicated the dog had hit upon the scent of Carrie Culberson, a Clermont County officer testified Thursday in Mr. Baker's trial.

Another officer, Brown County Deputy Loretta Funk, said her black Labrador retriever, who is trained to sniff out cadavers, became so excited at the pond, she jumped in it three times and kept barking.

Their testimony was the highlight Thursday of Mr. Baker's trial. He faces two counts of obstruction of justice and a count of tampering with evidence, all felonies, in the August 1996 disappearance of Ms. Culberson.

Mr. Baker is the father of Vincent Doan, who was sentenced to life in prison for Ms. Culberson's murder, and Tracey Baker, who received eight years for his role in covering up the crime.

Mr. Baker is the third family member accused in the murder of the 22-year-old Ms. Culberson, whose body was never found.

Deputy Funk and Clermont County Deputy Ben Lundsford testified Mr. Baker was aware of their dogs' findings.

When police drained the pond the next day, officers found muddy tracks, which Clinton County Deputy Brian Edwards said he considered human footprints. The tracks and mud along the path to the pond indicated somebody had been in the pond or had dragged something from it, he testified.

But defense attorney Paris K. Ellis argued police officials had no way of knowing if the tracks were fresh. Further, he said, bloodhounds like to play in water. It's characteristic of the breed and not always an indication the dog has picked up on a certain scent, he said.

Mr. Baker did not interfere with police business, Mr. Ellis said. In fact, his client was helpful, even putting up the junkyard dogs on one occasion. During another search, Mr. Baker went so far as to remove the lid from a septic tank, Mr. Ellis said.

Deputy Lundsford, responding to tips to search the septic tank, probed it with a pole. The water was so clear he could see the bottom of the tank, he told the jury.

"It would have had to be pumped out, washed out, and then refilled with clean water," he said.

Also, he told the jury he found a piece of insulation in the septic tank, similar to that lying on the ground.

Yet under cross-examination, Deputy Lundsford acknowledged the tank lid did not look like it had been moved recently.

If Mr. Baker is found guilty, he could receive up to 10 years in prison. He is to take the stand today.

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