Thursday, January 25, 2001

Killer refuses to testify about body's location

Lawsuit alleges botched investigation

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When asked about his missing girlfriend five years ago, Vincent Doan said very little about where he thought she might be.

        He said even less Wednesday in federal court.

        Mr. Doan repeatedly declined to answer Wednesday when attorneys asked for details about his involvement in the disappearance of Carrie Culberson in 1996.

        The refusals came more than three years after Mr. Doan was convicted of kidnapping and murdering Ms. Culberson, his girlfriend for nearly a year.

        He was called to testify Wednesday as part of a lawsuit Ms. Culberson's family filed against officials in her hometown of Blanchester.

        The lawsuit claims Blanchester deprived the family of Ms. Culberson's remains because it failed to properly investigate her disappearance.

        At his murder trial in 1997, Mr. Doan denied any knowledge of Ms. Culberson's disappearance. But when questioned Wednesday, he refused to say even that much.

        “I'm going to assert my Fifth Amendment rights,” Mr. Doan said on several occasions.

        Judge S. Arthur Spiegel explained to jurors that the Fifth Amendment gives Mr. Doan the right to refuse to answer questions that could incriminate him. Mr. Doan is appealing his murder conviction and hopes to get a new trial.

        The Culberson family's attorney, Alphonse Gerhardstein, asked whether Ms. Culberson's body was temporarily put in a pond owned by Mr. Doan's family before it was removed and dumped in the Ohio River.

        But Mr. Doan again refused to answer.

        Before Mr. Doan took the stand, Mr. Gerhardstein questioned former Blanchester Police Chief Richard Payton about why the chief did not secure the area around the pond after two bloodhounds indicated there could be a body there.

        “Isn't it shocking to ignore that?” Mr. Gerhardstein asked.

        “It would be,” Mr. Payton said, “but I wasn't there.”

        The former chief denied he waited to drain the pond so Mr. Doan's relatives could remove Ms. Culberson's body. And he denied being present when the dogs searched the area.

        Two years ago, Mr. Payton was convicted of a misdemeanor for hampering the investigation.

        Ms. Culberson's mother, Debra, accuses Mr. Payton of failing to act quickly enough when she reported her daughter missing.


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