Wednesday, March 19, 2003 Print This | Email This     

The vanishing of Carrie Culberson

By Rochelle Steinhaus, Court TV

(Court TV) — Vincent Doan faced the death penalty when prosecutors believed the Ohio man with a history of abusing his 22-year-old girlfriend murdered her. But a key piece of evidence was missing from the state's case — a body.

Carrie Culberson vanished, but her body was never found — leading the defense to contend there was no proof that Carrie was even dead, much less that her boyfriend murdered her.

A Clinton County jury was left to decide whether to convict Doan of four counts of kidnapping and two counts of aggravated murder in a trial that began July 21, 1997.

The Disappearance

On the evening of Aug. 28, 1996, 22-year-old Clarissa Ann ("Carrie") Culberson spent an enjoyable evening with friends from her hometown of Blanchester, Ohio. Carrie, an outgoing, athletic and popular young woman, belonged to a volleyball league and she and two companions played a game that night in the nearby town of Morrow.

Following the game, she and her friends rode around looking for something to do, but with few options on a quiet Wednesday night in a small town, Carrie was dropped off at around 11:30 p.m. at the home she shared with her mother, Debbie, and teen sister, Christina.

One of Culberson's neighbors saw Carrie get dropped off that night — and says a few moments later Culberson's 1989 red Honda CRX backed out of the driveway and headed down the block.

The next morning at around 6 a.m., Debbie Culberson noticed her daughter's car was not in the driveway. She immediately began to drive around Blanchester searching for Carrie — and the first place she drove was passed the home of Carrie's longtime boyfriend, 24-year-old Vincent Doan.

He wasn't home, nor was Carrie's car in front of the house. But Debbie caught up with Doan later that day at the home of his father, Lawrence Baker. According to Debbie, Vincent first told her he hadn't seen Carrie in three days.

But later that morning, she says he changed his story, telling her Carrie had driven by his home honking her horn at about 12:30 a.m. Doan allegedly claimed Carrie was drunk, so he just closed his door and ignored her. Friends who Carrie was with that evening say she only drank one beer and was not drunk.

His purported account, according to Debbie Culberson, changed again when she went back to see him a third time. Doan maintained Carrie drove by, but this time allegedly said he came out of the house wrapped in a towel to talk to her — and that she sped off when he declared he no longer loved her.

The Relationship

According to friends of Carrie Culberson, Vincent Doan was obsessed with Carrie. Fellow employees at the two beauty salons where she was employed as a nail technician say Doan routinely called Culberson a minimum of five times during her shift.

Other witnesses claimed obsession graduated into physical abuse. Friends, former roommates, co-workers and family members say they either viewed Doan behaving abusively toward Carrie or saw injuries they believed were the result of such violence. A photograph of Culberson taken after an alleged beating in April 1996, for example, depicts Culberson's badly bruised, swollen face.

Challenged by Carrie's parents following the April 1996 incident, Doan allegedly blamed Carrie's injuries on a bumpy ride in a Jeep.

According to Debbie Culberson, Doan smugly told her he "only" slapped Carrie around, but never hit her with his fist. On another occasion, Carrie told friends that scratch marks on her face were caused by frantic efforts to pull Doan's smothering hands off her nose and mouth.

The turning point in Vincent and Carrie's relationship may have come on July 28, 1996 — exactly one month before Culberson disappeared.

Carrie allegedly told several people close to her that Doan attacked her with a space heater, causing a gash in the back of her head that required five medical staples to close. Doan allegedly instructed her to say she hurt herself by falling on his front porch.

But this time, unlike earlier incidents, Carrie and her mother went to the Blanchester police department and filed misdemeanor assault charges against Vincent Doan. After Culberson's disappearance, those charges were ultimately dropped because the now-missing woman was unable to appear as a witness.

Despite pressing charges against Doan, Carrie continued her relationship with him. Some close to her theorize she was unable to tear herself away from him, but others say she feared Doan would kill her and her family if she ever tried to leave him.

Her Last Days

Three days before Carrie was last seen, on Aug. 25, 1996, she and Doan spent the day at the beach. The following evening the two went out to dinner.

But the next morning Carrie told friend Tonya Whitten that the previous night Doan held her captive at gunpoint for nearly five hours at a rural location. According to Whitten, Carrie told her Doan said, "You think I'm a big joke; I'll show you how big a joke I am. I'm not going to jail."

According to Whitten's account, Carrie eventually convinced Doan to take her home, promising she would come to his house later that night.

But Culberson allegedly said that when she later called Doan and told him that she had changed her mind about coming over, he became enraged and said he was going to come over and kill her. Carrie apparently took the threat seriously, sleeping on the living room couch and locking all the doors and windows.

On Aug. 27, 1996, Carrie followed her regular routine of going to the gym. Shortly after her arrival, however, she received a phone call from Vincent Doan and spoke to him briefly.

Doan soon showed up in person, allegedly arguing with Carrie and calling her names. The couple spoke again in the gym's parking lot before Carrie drove off. Doan allegedly jumped in his car, did a U-turn, and followed her. According to Whitten, Culberson informed her later that Doan had told her not to worry about what had happened the previous evening, crying as he told Carrie he'd given the gun to his brother and no longer had it.

The day Carrie vanished, Aug. 28, 1996, began as a normal day. Carrie again spent the morning at the gym, and Vincent called her there three times.

But Doan, who had to appear in court that evening because of a traffic violation, was angry Carrie would not be accompanying him because she had agreed to play volleyball with her girlfriends instead. He later appeared at the bar where the volleyball game was taking place, saying he wanted to drive Carrie home.

But according to her friends, Carrie was trying to avoid being alone with Doan, offering him the excuse that she was the designated driver who had to chauffeur her friends home. Carrie was seen repeatedly shaking her head "no" to Doan. He left the bar once, only to return moments later, but again she refused to leave with him. When he finally did leave those inside the bar could hear the tires of his car peeling out of the parking lot.

Carrie seemed reluctant for the evening to end, according to her friends, and the group drove around the quiet town in search of something to do. But even as Culberson and her friends drove around Blanchester, Carrie seemed interested in Vincent's whereabouts, asking the driver of the car to pass by Doan's house on more than one occasion. Finally, at around 11:30 p.m., she was dropped off at her own home — the last undisputed time she was ever seen.

The Search

As news of Carrie Culberson's mysterious disappearance spread, large-scale searches were organized to try to find her, her car — or her corpse. A little more than a week after Culberson vanished, more than 300 volunteers spent a weekend combing through grassy fields, wooded areas, shallow creeks and abandoned buildings in a multi-county area of southern Ohio, looking for any sign of the missing woman. In a heartwarming example of small-town Midwestern fellowship, many of the searchers did not know the Culbersons, but volunteered their time as a show of support for the family and the community. On subsequent weekends, the scope and area of the search was expanded.

But they found no trace of her.

As the weeks dragged into months with no word of or from Carrie, Debbie Culberson took to the media to try to locate her daughter. Carrie's disappearance had already received wide coverage in area newspapers when the syndicated television program "Inside Edition" devoted a segment to the case. Debbie's appearances on "Oprah Winfrey" and "The Montel Williams Show" also netted nothing leading to her daughter's whereabouts.

Occasionally, there were some tantalizing leads — none of which panned out, however. A car pulled from the Ohio River was originally suspected to be Culberson's, but proved to be a 1985 rather than a 1989 Honda. The nude body of a female found counties away in an abandoned farm cistern wasn't Carrie's.

In one of the case's most bizarre incidents, police dogs trained to sniff out human cadavers led investigators to a pile of dirt on property belonging Vincent Doan's father, Lawrence Baker. But a subsequent dig led to nothing more than a buried freezer containing plastic bags, clothing, and decaying animal flesh once used to feed Baker's pet lion.

As posters titled, "Have You Seen This Woman?" bearing Carrie's photograph began to appear in churches, post offices, storefronts and shop windows in neighboring cities, dozens came forward claiming to have spotted Carrie or her car. None of these sightings, however, could be confirmed, and some believe a $10,000 reward may have provided the incentive for some to file false reports.

During the trial itself, a woman claiming to be Carrie Culberson placed a 911 phone call in Cincinnati expressing concern an innocent man was on trial. A tape of the call was played to Debbie Culberson, who said the voice was not her daughter's. Another reported sighting of Carrie was received during deliberations, in which a woman looking like Culberson entered a convenience store, scanned newspaper headlines about the ongoing trial and ran out of the store. But like other leads in the case, this particular account led nowhere.

The Investigation

The original focus of the case defined Carrie Culberson as a missing person — not a murder victim. But as the months — and the investigation — dragged on, Vincent Doan remained a logical suspect.

On March 27, 1997, a Clinton County grand jury indicted Doan on four charges of kidnapping.

Doan surrendered to authorities three days later and after spending a few days behind bars, was released on a $100,000 bond. A trial date was set for June 9, 1997.

But five days before the kidnapping trial was slated to begin, two counts of aggravated murder were added. The multiple murder counts against Vincent Doan reflect two separate theories of the killing.

Under the first theory, Carrie Culberson's kidnapping was an extension of Doan's obsessive desire to control her, and the defendant murdered Culberson while committing or attempting to commit the kidnapping itself. In the second, prosecutors theorized Doan may have purposely killed Culberson with the specific intention of preventing her from testifying in any criminal action resulting from the assault charges she had brought against him.

Doan's bail was immediately revoked; he was taken into custody and returned to a county jail.

Because of the additional charges, Vincent Doan's original trial date of June 9 was postponed until July 14, 1997. In the meantime, a new defense motion for bond was denied.

The Prosecution's Case

Clinton County prosecutors reluctantly determined Carrie Culberson is dead — and contended Vincent Doan's obsessive relationship with his one-time girlfriend escalated into a series of physical assaults that ultimately led to her murder.

The prosecution recognized their case against Vincent Doan was purely circumstantial, since there was no physical evidence unquestionably proving Carrie Culberson is even dead, let alone that Doan killed her.

But circumstantial evidence against the defendant, argued prosecutors Bill Peelle and Rick Moyer, is solid and conclusive. They charged Doan's past actions show he was a hot-tempered, physically abusive man obsessed with controlling every facet of her life. When Carrie appeared to be resisting that attention, they said, Doan realized he might be losing control of her, leading Doan to murder Carrie as a final act of dominance.

They dismissed claims that Carrie was alive based on scattered reports by people who claimed to have spotted the missing woman — pointing out that recent sightings of Elvis Presley don't prove the King is still among the living.

In order to convince the jury Vincent Doan murdered Carrie Culberson in the early morning hours of Aug. 29, 1996, prosecutors relied on testimony of several pivotal witnesses.

Doan's neighbor, Billie Jo Brown, said she witnessed Doan assaulting Culberson that morning. Brown said Vincent chased Carrie through her yard, yelling curses and threats at her before he grabbed her, punched her in the face and forced her into her Honda.

Lori Baker, the ex-wife of Doan's half-brother, Tracey, said at around 3:15 a.m., only hours after Carrie was last seen, Vincent Doan knocked on her back door looking for his brother. Lori's twin sister, Vicki Watkins, who was allegedly staying the night also claims to have witnessed the late-night visit and corroborated her sister's story. Lori said not only was Doan disheveled but covered in smeared blood. Doan spoke to his brother briefly before taking a shower and changing into Tracey's clothes. The two men left together — with a gun and some garbage bags — and drove off in Tracey's truck at about 4:30 a.m. When they returned approximately 90 minutes later, Lori claims, both men had blood on them.

The following weekend, Lori says Doan was at her home when a television report about the case came on — and prompted a bizarre reaction from Doan, who began rocking, pulling his shirt up over his head and telling Baker that she "couldn't imagine hurting someone and holding them until they died."

Mitchell Epperson, Doan's cellmate in jail, claimed Doan told him that he believed Culberson was cheating on him. According to Epperson, Doan then added, "When they do that, you can't let 'em walk on you; you've got to make them pay."

Epperson also claimed Doan asked him if he lay awake at night and thought about his girlfriend; when Epperson admitted he did, Doan allegedly said that he once had such thoughts about Carrie — but with a perverse twist. "He said that he would lay awake at night," Epperson claimed Doan told him, "and think of a hundred different ways to kill her before he did it."

Prosecutors contended the circumstantial evidence was clear: whether motivated by obsession or a desire to keep Carrie quiet in the criminal case against him, Vincent Doan kidnapped and murdered Carrie Culberson on or about August 29, 1996.

The Defense's Case

Vincent Doan maintained he knew nothing about Carrie's disappearance and vehemently denied kidnapping or murdering her. In fact, argued defense lawyer John Rion, Vincent couldn't have killed Carrie Culberson, because the evidence suggests Carrie Culberson is still alive.

To bolster that claim, the defense points to dozens of reports that Carrie or her car were spotted since the day of her disappearance. Of course, many of those sightings have been dismissed as unreliable, and most of the people who believe that they may have seen Culberson know her only from missing person posters or television coverage of her disappearance, and might therefore be confused as to whether or not they have actually seen the missing woman.

But some of the people who claim to have seen Culberson knew Carrie before she disappeared — and, argued defense attorneys, the testimony of those witnesses proves Culberson is not dead.

Even if Carrie Culberson is dead, the defense argued there is nothing concrete to prove Vincent Doan murdered her.

There was no physical evidence directly linking Doan to the crime — no body, no murder weapon or any other scientific proof. The defense is quick to point out that scientific analysis of substances taken from Doan's home and car, his brother's home and father's junkyard all yielded not a shred of evidence to support the prosecution's claims.

The defense also set out to discredit key state witnesses. Doan's neighbor, Billie Jo Brown, is a multi-county offender and ex-convict with a record of writing bad checks. Mitchell Epperson, Doan's prison roomie, had a rap sheet detailing a long criminal history of arrests for DUI, breaking and entering, looting, assault, theft and violating probation.

But the defense especially tore into Lori Baker and Vicki Watkins. Watkins, charged the defense, is a habitual liar and was fabricating the story about even being at her sister's house the night the twins claim Doan knocked on his brother's door covered in blood. And Lori Baker, they say, is an unstable woman with a history of drug abuse and engaging in Satanic rituals who has repeatedly changed her account of what she may or may not have seen on Aug. 29, 1996.

Attorneys representing Vincent Doan also dismiss the testimony of Lori Baker and Vicki Watkins for another reason: they say their client has an alibi.

Vincent's father, Lawrence Baker, and Betty Baker, the defendant's stepmother, both claim they stopped by the defendant's home sometime between 1:30 and 2 a.m. on Aug. 29, 1996. According to Lawrence Baker, he found Vincent Doan sound asleep on his living room couch; Baker claims he turned off the television and lights and closed the defendant's door as he exited the house, all without waking the defendant.

The defense in this case blames the case against Vincent Doan on a rush to judgment by Clinton County authorities. They claim frustration on the part of law enforcement officials who failed to locate any sign of the missing Carrie Culberson led prosecutors to unfairly pin unwarranted and unprovable charges upon the defendant.

Police work in this case was sloppy from the beginning, claimed the defense, with potentially important leads never pursued and many of reputed sightings of Culberson or her car either summarily dismissed or not properly investigated.

Finally, defense attorneys rejected both theories of motive set forth by the indictment. Confronting the issue of physical abuse head on, they do not deny their client and Culberson may have had what they term "spats" in the three years the couple dated, but they insisted any such disagreements are a far cry from murder.

They also dismissed the prosecution's supposition that Doan killed Culberson to keep her from testifying against him on misdemeanor assault charges, noting that the penalties for such charges ranged from a minimum of probation to a maximum of only six months in jail.

In short, Vincent Doan denied all of the murder and kidnapping charges against him, and entered a not guilty plea for each charge.

The Stakes

If convicted, Doan faced a second phase of the trial to determine whether he would spend life in prison or receive a death sentence.

The Verdict

After four days of deliberation, the jury reached a verdict on Aug. 7, 1997.

The panel of six men and six women and six men found him guilty of one of two counts of aggravated murder and three of four counts of kidnapping.

In short, the jurors ultimately determined Vincent Doan kidnapped, or attempted to kidnap, Carrie Culberson in the early morning hours of Aug. 29, 1996, and that Culberson was killed as a result of that kidnapping. But by its not guilty verdicts in two of the six counts against the defendant, jurors indicated that they rejected the alternative prosecution theory that Doan killed Culberson in an effort to keep her from testifying against him in any court action relating to the assault charges she had filed.

As Vincent Doan was taken from the courthouse, he still insisted that he was not responsible for the disappearance or death of his former girlfriend. "I'm innocent," Doan told reporters swarming around him as Clinton County sheriff's deputies led him to an awaiting police car. When asked if he would exchange information about Culberson's body for a reduced sentence, he responded, "If you don't know where anything is, how can you explain where it is?"

The Sentencing Phase

The penalty phase of the murder and kidnapping trial of Vincent Doan began on Nov. 3, 1997.

Prosecutors told jurors they would not introduce any new evidence, relying instead on testimony and evidence already presented during the trial. According to the prosecution, the specification already found by the jurors, that Vincent Doan murdered Carrie Culberson during the committing of or immediately after the committing of a kidnapping, was an aggravating factor that outweighed any potential mitigating circumstances the defense might introduce on Doan's behalf.

The defense, not surprisingly, disagreed. Lawyer John Rion appealed to jurors to "take the high road" in this capital case by sparing the defendant's life. Claiming he accepted the jury's verdict, though noting he personally disagreed with it, Rion nevertheless argued the panel's "residual doubt" as to whether or not Carrie Culberson was truly dead was enough to keep jurors from sentencing Vincent Doan to death for Culberson's murder.

He also promised to introduce evidence about Vincent Doan's personality and personal history which would mitigate the aggravating factor already determined by the jurors.

The defense called 20 witnesses over two days, including Doan's grade school teachers, family friends and peers who described Doan as polite, helpful and generous. Also testifying were jailhouse guards who said Doan was an model inmate since his arrest, as well as several ex-girlfriends who said Doan was neither jealous nor abusive.

Mentioned by several witnesses was a 1992 incident in which Doan suffered injuries from a collapsing crane which caused him physical and mental pain.

The final witness was the defendant's mother, Priscilla Doan, who begged the jury, "I'd like you to try to find it in your hearts not to give Vincent the death penalty because he doesn't deserve it. He's innocent, and I would miss him."

The defense concluded with Doan himself addressing the jury for nearly 20 minutes, insisting he had nothing to do with Culberson's disappearance.

"As her friend, and somebody who still loves her, I'm not going to give up hope that she's safe somewhere . . . I would still like to do anything that I could do to help out the Culbersons, and help out Carrie as much as I could . . . I miss her tremendously, even though we couldn't have a relationship . . . when she comes home, I still would not turn my back on her as a friend," he said. Vincent Doan ended his unsworn statement by asking the jurors to spare his life.

The Sentencing Verdict

After two days of deliberations, the jury reached a verdict — sparing Doan death but recommending a life term without parole.

On Nov. 17, 1997, Judge William McCracken officially sentenced defendant Vincent Doan for the murder of Clarissa Ann Culberson.

Judge McCracken also sentenced Vincent Doan to serve an additional nine years for one count of kidnapping. (At his trial, the defendant had been convicted of three counts of kidnapping, but those counts were merged for sentencing purposes.)

Prior to the sentencing, McCracken allowed Debbie Culberson to address the court in a victim impact statement. "I can't even begin to imagine the events that took place that last night of Carrie's life," Mrs. Culberson told the court. "By not knowing the truth of what really happened that night, we will be forever tormented."

Directly addressing the defendant, Culberson pleaded for her daughter's body. "Carrie told me so many times that she loved you. Could you please return that love by letting us give her the humane and Christian burial that she deserves?" she asked.

Later, as he was being led back to jail, Doan once again maintained his innocence, telling onlookers, "I have been wrongfully accused."

The Aftermath

More Charges, More Trials

Following Doan's conviction, his brother, Tracey Baker, and father, Lawrence Baker, were arrested in Sept. 1997. Also indicted by a grand jury in connection to the case was Blanchester police chief Richard Payton.

Tracey Baker was charged with obstructing justice, tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse. According to prosecutors, Vincent Doan went to Baker's home in the early morning hours of Aug. 29, 1996, seeking his brother's help in the disposal of Carrie Culberson's body. They theorized Tracey accompanied Doan back to the spot where he had left Carrie's body, helped his brother dismember the corpse, and then aided Doan in dispersing or otherwise disposing of the victim's remains.

He went to trial in May 1998, and prosecutors presented new evidence, including two strands of hair matching Carrie Culberson's allegedly found in Tracey's vehicle. There was also testimony that red paint found on his truck came from Carrie's red Honda.

Lori Baker, Tracey's ex-wife, was once again the star prosecution witness as she was in Doan's trial. Baker himself took the stand denying any involvement — but the jury didn't believe him.

On June 4, 1998, after 19 hours of deliberations, jurors found Tracey Baker guilty of two counts of obstructing justice and one count of tampering with evidence, but acquitted him of gross abuse of a corpse. He was sentenced July 8, 1998 to eight years in prison.

Accused of helping his sons dispose of Culberson's body and car and fabricating Doan's alibi, Lawrence Baker faced charges of obstructing justice and tampering with evidence. In a trial that began in August 1998, Lori Baker took the stand for a third time, with testimony that she turned some items over to her father-in-law police missed during a search and never saw them again. She also testified Lawrence Baker encouraged her to lie to police during their investigation of Carrie Culberson's disappearance.

But Lawrence Baker was luckier than his sons had been. On August 25, 1998, after more than nine hours of deliberations, jurors found him not guilty of all charges.

Payton, charged obstructing justice and dereliction of duty, allegedly warned Doan and the Bakers that the pond bordering a junkyard owned by Lawrence Baker was about to be searched. The case, however, never went to trial. On the same day Lawrence Baker was acquitted, Payton pleaded no contest to the lesser charges of two misdemeanor counts of dereliction of duty. Judge William McCracken gave Payton a suspended 90-day sentence, a $750 fine and one year of unsupervised probation.

The Civil Suit

On Oct. 24, 1997, the family of Carrie Culberson filed a wrongful death lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati. Carrie's mother, father and sister demanded in the suit that Vincent Doan and his alleged accomplices reveal where the young woman's body was dumped.

"All we've ever wanted is to find Carrie, so we can give her a proper burial," said Debbie Culberson. The suit named as defendants Vincent Doan, Tracey Baker, Lawrence Baker, Richard Payton and the village of Blanchester. In addition to the recovery of Carrie Culberson's remains, the lawsuit asked for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

On Feb. 1, 2001, Carrie Culberson's mother, father, and sister were awarded $3.75 million in their federal wrongful death lawsuit against the village of Blanchester. Citing what it termed "shocking" conduct, jurors heaped special scorn on Payton for what they believed was his role in interfering with the search of Lawrence Baker's junkyard for Culberson's body shortly after her disappearance, thereby — according to this jury — depriving the Culberson family of their rights to the victim's remains.

The jury's decision came after six hours of deliberation. Ironically, those deliberations began on — and the verdict was delivered the day after — what would have been Carrie Culberson's 27th birthday.

At first, the village of Blanchester indicated its intention to appeal the award. But some five months later, on July 10, 2001, the city agreed to pay the Culbersons $2 million to settle the matter. In addition to the payment, which was covered by the municipality's insurance, the town pledged to establish a memorial to victims of domestic violence, make policy changes and provide additional training to Blanchester police officers on domestic violence law enforcement and establish a Clinton County domestic violence task force.

In what may be the most moving part of the settlement — at least for the Culberson family — the village also agreed to hang a plaque with a photograph of Carrie Culberson in the Blanchester Police Department's front lobby until such time when her remains are finally discovered.

Debbie Culberson has become a crusader in the struggle against domestic violence, speaking to groups as varied as high school students, church members and even prison inmates. She continues to live in Blanchester — as do Priscilla Doan and Lawrence Baker, Vincent Doan's parents. Christina Culberson Knox, Carrie's sister, is now married and has become a parent herself.

The Appeals

As his attorneys promised at the conclusion of his trial, an appeal was filed on behalf of Vincent Doan, seeking to overturn his conviction. According to the defense petition, Judge William McCracken erred during the guilt phase of Doan's trial when he allowed hearsay evidence about Doan's alleged abuse of Carrie Culberson to be entered into evidence.

Doan's appeals lawyer, Kort Gatterdam, argued before the appeals court on Nov. 8, 1999, that the jury improperly based its verdicts on statements from witnesses who said Culberson had told them that Doan beat her on several occasions.

On Feb. 29, 2000, the three 12th District Court of Appeals judges who heard the appeal upheld Doan's conviction for the kidnapping and murder of Carrie Culberson. According to the justices who reviewed the case, Vincent Doan received a fair trial and the evidence introduced at that trial supported his conviction.

In August 2001, the Clinton County Court of Common Pleas denied Doan's second petition for postconviction relief, as well as his motion for a new trial. That decision was upheld on June 28, 2002 by the Ohio 12th District Court of Appeals — the same court that denied Doan's previous appeal.

Attorneys representing Tracey Baker, Vincent Doan's brother, also argued before the appeals court in a separate hearing that Baker's conviction for helping to cover up the crime should be overturned. They argued that pivotal prosecution witness Lori Baker, Tracey's ex-wife, should not have been allowed to testify in his trial because the couple, although divorced, were living together in a common-law marriage at the time of Carrie Culberson's disappearance. According to Tracey Baker's petition, Ohio law exempts spouses from testifying against each other and allows a defendant to prohibit his spouse from testifying.

On April 5, 2000, the court upheld Baker's conviction, ruling the sexual relationships both Tracey and Lori Baker had with others while they were living together indicated that they did not have a common-law marriage.

Vincent Doan continues to serve his life sentence at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison located in Titusville, Ohio. He still denies any knowledge of the fate or whereabouts of Carrie Culberson.

Tracey Baker is serving his eight-year sentence at Ross Correctional Facility, in Chillicothe, Ohio, and is scheduled for parole in 2006.

No trace of either Carrie Culberson or her red Honda CRX has ever been found.