Wednesday, April 05, 2000

Court upholds ruling in Culberson case

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MIDDLETOWN — An appeals court has upheld the conviction of Tracey Baker for his role in the 1996 disappearance of Carrie Culberson.

[photo] Tracey Baker
        The 12th District Court of Appeals ruled that the conviction of Mr. Baker on two counts of obstructing justice and tampering with evidence will stand.

        It was the second conviction the appeals court has upheld in the Culberson case. In February, the court affirmed the conviction of Mr. Baker's half brother, Vincent Doan, on charges of aggravated murder and kidnapping.

        Ms. Culberson, 22, of Blanchester disappeared in August 1996. The prosecution said that Mr. Doan killed Ms. Culberson, his girlfriend, and that Mr. Baker helped him dispose of her body. The body was never found.

        Ms. Culberson's mother, Debbie Culberson, welcomed the appeals court's decision and said she's glad both men will remain in prison.

        “That's wonderful,” she said. “It is good news to know that they're not going anywhere.”

        Mr. Baker, convicted in 1998, is serving an eight-year sentence while Mr. Doan, convicted in a separate trial in 1997, is serving a life sentence.

        In 1998, a jury acquitted their father, Lawrence Baker, of helping Mr. Doan cover up the murder.

        In Tracey Baker's appeal, his attorney, Fred Miller, argued that Lori Baker, the prosecution's key witness and Mr. Doan's ex-wife, should not have been permitted to testify in the trial.

        Although they had divorced, Ms. Baker was living with him at the time of Ms. Culberson's disappearance, and the two were in a common-law marriage, he said. The law exempts spouses from testifying against each other and allows the defendant to prohibit his spouse from testifying, he said.

        The appeals court rejected that argument. The judges said the sexual relationships Tracey and Lori Baker had with others while living together indicated they did not have a common-law marriage.


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