Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Slain woman's mother still seeking body

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Carrie Culberson
        Debbie Culberson was back in court Monday, hoping a search for police accountability will lead to the one thing still missing from the murder of her daughter: the body.

        In the latest chapter in a 1996 case, Mrs. Culberson filed a civil-rights lawsuit against the village of Blanchester, alleging its initial handling of the search deprived the family of its right to possession of 22-year-old Carrie Culberson's remains.

        The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, began Monday in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati.

        Carrie Culberson's boyfriend, Vincent Doan, was convicted in Clinton County Common Pleas Court in 1997 and is serving life without parole in state prison in Lucasville. He is expected to be called to the stand on Wednesday. Ms. Culberson's body was never found.

        At the heart of the Culberson family's claim is what happened — and didn't happen — at a pond on Mr. Doan's father's Clermont County junkyard.

        On Sept. 3, 1996 search dogs detected a “strong indication” of the victim there, according to tes timony Monday from search-dog trainer Ben Lunsford, then of the Clermont County Sheriff's Department.

        But the pond wasn't drained until the following day and wasn't secured in the interim.

        “We had the opportunity to have Carrie's body, and we lost that,” Mrs. Culberson said during a recess Monday. “I know Carrie's body and soul are separate. But it was that body that I held in my arms. I need to know what happened.”

        The five-women, three-men jury must consider by a “preponderance of evidence” that the Culberson family's claim is more likely true than false. It is a lower standard than in criminal cases.

        Attorney Lawrence Barbiere, representing Blanchester, declined comment Monday.

        His cross-examination of Mr. Lunsford will continue this morning.

        Mr. Lunsford testified Monday before U.S. Judge S. Arthur Spiegel that he told Blanchester Police Chief Richard Payton to “keep searching, not stopping.” He added that Clermont County officials offered to help secure the scene until a search warrant was obtained.

        Mr. Lunsford said of Chief Payton's response: “All I know is we were thanked for our assistance and that we wouldn't be needed anymore.”

        Former Chief Payton, who is expected to testify this afternoon, pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of dereliction of duty after prosecutors agreed to drop two felony counts of obstruction of justice. The chief was fined, received a suspended jail sentence and was placed on a one-year probation.

        He left the force and is reportedly living in Florida.

        Mr. Doan's half-brother, Tracey Baker, is serving eight years at Ross Correctional Institute in Chillicothe for helping cover up the crime. Mr. Doan's father, Lawrence Baker, was the only defendant acquitted in court.

        He was charged with obstructing justice and tampering with evidence.


Teachers working into pay-for-performance
Faith leads teens to capital protest
PULFER: Science textbooks don't tell whole story
Riverboat casinos pull in $497 million
Ind. gamblers might soon skip the cruise
UC going ahead with mansion over city's objection
Bengals withheld seats from sale
Death stalks Ross High
FDA approves hepatitis drug
Health care tax apt to be on May ballot
Hospitals divvy up pediatric care
Man found dead after fire
Sex charges go back a decade
- Slain woman's mother still seeking body
Firefighter saved from icy lake
Florence council hesitant to fund ballpark
Airport seeks grant for precision navigation
Awards recognize aid to handicapped
Four more charter schools for Cincinnati
High school revamp OK'd
Board to discuss role in adult education
Fire destroys Whitewater home
Fox blasts court, says it delays child cases
Indiana governor pushes daylight-saving time
Kentucky Digest
Local Digest
Monks show art at NKU
Where does electric power come from? Kids find out
Wife gets deal in pot case
Doctor pleads guilty to defrauding insurers
Ten Commandments donations dwindle
Workers' comp bill hits snag