14 | Carrie Culberson

A listener note- this podcast deals with adult topics and is not suitable for young listeners.  

According to the CDC and the National Institute of Justice, nearly 25% of women experience at least one physical assault during adulthood by a partner.

In 1992, domestic violence was the leading cause of injury for women between 15 and 44- more than rapes, muggings and car accidents combined.

In today’s episode, I’m sharing the story of a 22 year old Ohio woman named Carrie Culberson, who after years of abuse went missing.

I’m Brooke Wilkerson.

This is the mHERder podcast.

And this is HER story.

ABOUT

The story of Carrie Culberson is one with a lot of twists and turns. It seemed like every time I thought I had read it all- there would be another story that stemmed from her case. Lawsuit after lawsuit, rumors and years of documented abuse- this story will blow your mind.

Clarissa Ann Culberson, who went by “Carrie” was born on January 31st, 1974 in Blanchester, Ohio just 30 miles northeast of Cincinnati. Back in 1996, when this story takes place, Blanchester only had around 4200 people living there. 

Carrie’s mom described her as bubbly, genuine and fun. At 22 years old, Carrie was living with her mom and her 15 year old sister, and her parents were divorced. She worked part-time as a nail tech at 2 different salons, and started dating a guy named Vincent Doan in 1994.

Vincent Doan was far from an upstanding citizen. In fact, when he and Carrie started dating, he had just been released from jail after shooting his friend in the face because this friend had allegedly had an affair with Vincent’s girlfriend at the time. The charges were later dropped to a misdemeanor and Vincent was released, and then started dating Carrie.

Carrie’s relationship with Vincent was full of horrible stories of violence. 

There were many witnesses to Carries abuse, including an old friend of hers named and former roommate, Cicely. Cicely testified that in January of 1995, Carrie and her were living together in an apartment when Carrie got a phone call from an unidentified male. Carrie answered the phone in her bedroom. Vincent was in the apartment at the time, and Cicely saw him pick up the other phone located in the kitchen, to listen in to the call. When Carrie got off the phone, Vincent went into her room and drug her into the kitchen by her hair. Vincent told Cicely that he and Carrie were going to find the person who called and Cicely told him that she was going to call the police. Vincent told her, “if you do, you’ll be sorry.” Carrie and Vincent left the apartment and Carrie returned about 10 minutes later. Cicely, horrified by what she had witnessed, asked Carrie if she wanted her to call the police for her, but Carrie said “no” because she was scared of what Vincent would do if she got the police involved.

Later that year in March, Cicely witnessed another domestic violence incident between Carrie and Vincent outside of a bar. Carrie and Cicely had been at the bar with friends, when Vincent showed up. Carrie went outside with Vincent, and Cicely saw Vincent punch Carrie in the stomach. Some of the guys at the bar confronted Vincent over this and there was a scuffle before Vincent left the bar.

Another incident that Cicely witnessed was in April. Carrie had given her a ride to her mom’s house, when Vincent showed up. Carrie was in her car in the driveway  and Vincent blocked Carrie in so that she couldn’t leave. He then smashed Carrie’s face into the steering wheel, leaving a huge gash above her left eye.

Another random person also witnessed an incident between Carrie and Vincent in January of 1996 while on her way home from work. Georgia Falgner testified that she almost ran over a guy who had fallen over in the street after trying to jump up and kick the passenger side windows out of a red Honda CRX- Carrie’s car. Georgia’s son was in the car with her and noticed that there was someone in the car- Carrie. He told her, “mom, there is a girl in that car!” 

Vincent was trying to pull Carrie out of the car by the hair on her head, so Georgia stopped and asked Carrie if she needed help. Carrie said, “Yes! Get the police!” But, Vincent snapped back and said, “Get the fuck outta here or you’re next!” 

Georgia, understandably scared, got back into her car to go get the police (there was apparently an officer one street over). As she drove away, Carrie made a break for her house, and Georgia saw in her rearview mirror, Vincent slide over the hood of her car and chase Carrie inside. Georgia came back moments later with an officer, but Vincent was already gone. This time, a police report was filed.

The last incident that Cicely knew of was in June of 1996. Cicely testified that Carrie had showed up at her house and that she had scratches all over her face. She told Cicely that Vincent had attempted to smother her, covering her nose and mouth to “stop her from talking.” She said that she couldn’t breathe, and that she had broken off all of her acrylic nails on her face trying to remove his hands, and that’s how she got all of the scratches on her face.

It seemed like everyone in Carrie’s life knew about the abuse, including her boss, Deseree Grueber who owned the salon where Carrie worked as a nail tech. Deseree testified that she saw Carrie with black eyes on several different occasions. Even though Deseree noticed these black eyes, she didn’t confront her, at first, since she was still a new employee. But, when Carrie showed up at the salon one day to get a new full set of nails, Deseree noticed all of the scratches on her face and asked her what happened. Carrie told her that she must’ve had allergies and scratched her face while she was asleep. But, Deseree knew that was a lie and she told Carrie that she didn’t believe her. Carrie broke down and told her what really happened- that story about Vincent trying to get her to stop talking, and Deseree was horrified and said, “Are you telling me that Vincent tried to suffocate you?” But, Carrie said “no” and tried to said that he didn’t know what he was doing. Deseree told her, “Carrie, you broke your nails on your own face” but said that Carrie just looked down at the floor. 

On another occasion, in April of 1996, Carrie came into the salon to pick up her paycheck, and as soon as a customer saw her, she yelled, “Oh my god!” Deseree looked up, and immediately took Carrie to a private room and asked her what had happened. Carrie was covered in bruises and scratches. She told Deseree that she had gotten into an argument with Vincent after his Jeep ran out of gas and that Vincent had slammed her head against the pavement. Carrie had severe bruises all over her face, arms, neck and back and was so sore that Deseree couldn’t even hug her. Deserree asked Carrie when she was finally going to have enough of this.

A month later, in May, Deseree sees Vincent standing outside of the salon, looking in and tells Carrie. Carrie goes outside to see what he wants, and they walk across the parking lot to talk next to his truck. Deseree could see Vincent throwing his arms up and pointing at Carrie. She then saw Vincent shove Carrie up against the truck, and immediately called for her manager. But, as soon as she turned back around, Carrie was already walking back into the salon. Deseree, shocked, asked Carrie, “What was that??” and Carrie said, “It’s ok. I gotta go potty now” and walked into the bathroom.

Then, just a couple of months after that, Deseree said that Carrie showed up to the salon with staples in the back of her head and asked her if she would wash her hair. Carrie told her that during an argument, Vincent had picked up a space heater and hit her in the back of the head with it. Carrie had to be taken to the hospital where she received 5 staples in the back of her head. Deseree was relieved to learn that, this time, Carrie had pressed charges. 

But, her relief was short-lived when Carrie showed up to a wedding reception with Vincent less than a month later. Even though she had pressed charges, she was obviously still seeing Vincent, which was hard for Deseree to understand. Deseree said that she confronted Carrie about this the next day, saying, “What on earth are you doing?” and Carrie told her, “It’s easier this way Deseree.”

Another friend of Carrie’s had also seen the aftermath of the space heater incident and testified that Carrie told her that they had been arguing and the next thing she knew, she woke up laying on the floor in a pool of blood, with Vincent standing over her. She told her friend that Vincent wouldn’t agree to take her home until Carrie promised to tell her mom that she had gotten the injury from a fall. She told her friend that she used to love Vincent, but now, she was just scared of him.

Carrie’s boss, Deseree felt compelled to help Carrie and even talked to her husband about how they could help- by giving her money and even offering to fly her to wherever she wanted to go- just to get her away from Vincent. Deseree made that offer to Carrie, but Carrie denied her help. She said that she couldn’t do that and started crying. She told Deseree that Vincent had told her that if she ever left him, he’d kill her whole family. Deseree thought this was a bluff, though, and she told Carrie that he didn’t have the guts to do that and that he simply got his kicks off by beating her. Carrie told Deseree that she knew Vincent loved her-she just didn’t understand. 

But, Deseree knew better. She testified that Vincent would call her at least 2 times every day before Carrie even showed up to work and that usually another 2 times after she got to work. Deseree said that he was always so calm and polite when he called, and everyone in the salon grew to expect his calls before Carrie arrived. 

On the 26th of August, 1996, Carrie had gone out to eat with Vincent, and on the way home, Vincent apparently got mad about something and pulled over on the side of rural road named Hunt Road. Vincent retrieved a gun out of the trunk of his car, and he held Carrie there, on the side of the road, for nearly 5 hours. Carrie told her best friend, Tonya Whitten that she felt like she was going to throw up the whole time, and that she was doing her best to calm Vincent down. She begged Vincent to let her go home and promised him that she would come over later that night if he did.

But, when Vincent called later to ask her if she was still coming over, Carrie told him that she was not. When she said that, he told her that if she didn’t come over that he would come over and kill her, and her whole family.

The next day, Carrie told Tonya about what had happened at a tanning salon. After talking to Tonya, she went into a tanning room to tan, when Vincent called the salon asking for her. Then, about ten minutes later, Vincent showed up at the salon and told Tonya, “I don’t understand why the fucking bitch needs to tan! We laid out in the sun all day Sunday. Look! I’m still burned!” 

Carrie ended up going outside with Vincent for a few minutes before they both left in separate vehicles.

The day after that, around 7 PM Carrie is at a volleyball game with her friends when Vincent shows up and confronts her. Three of Carrie’s friend’s testified that they saw Vincent shaking Carrie and that it was obvious that he was mad, but he ends up leaving.

Later, around 9 PM, Vincent confronts Carrie again, this time outside of a bar that she was at with her friends- the same friends that she had gone to the volleyball game with. After arguing with Carrie, her friends testified that he took off out of the parking lot in his black Ford Mustang, driving erratically.

Carrie sustained a ton of injuries at the hand of Vincent’s abuse. Along with the staples in her head and multiple bruises, Carrie’s kidneys were even bruised during one of these attacks.

Now, if you’re like me, you’re thinking- why didn’t Carrie or anyone around her report this abuse? Well, they actually did. Carrie reported her abuse to police at least 3 times, but Vincent was never actually arrested or charged until the space heater incident that left her with staples in her head. In fact, during one of the incidents, Vincent inadvertently hit her mom, Debra while trying to assault Carrie, and Debra also reported that to police, but, again, nothing was done and it’s not clear why.

THE MURDER

Carrie must’ve known that her life was in danger because later the night of August 27th, after the encounters with Vincent at the volleyball game and bar, it was around 11 PM when they were calling it a night. Now, at this point, she had pending charges against Vincent and he had confronted her twice that night, and for the first time- Carrie wasn’t listening to him anymore. Carrie asked her friend Cicely, who was driving the car that they were in, to drive by Vincents house 2 times to make sure that he was at home before they dropped her off. 

So, her friend drove by once- dropped off one of their friends, then, drove by his house another time and dropped off Carrie at her house around 11:30 PM. Both times, Vincent’s car was in the driveway, but here’s the thing- Vincent only lived 3 blocks away from Carrie’s house. He could’ve easily walked to her house if he wanted to.

Soon after Carrie is dropped off, a neighbor testified that she saw Carrie’s car back out of her driveway and down the street, with the lights off. Carrie’s family believes that it was at this time that Carrie was taken against her will because it didn’t make sense why she would be driving down her street with the lights off. She was 22 years old and her mother treated her as an adult, saying that there was no reason she would ever have to sneak out. 

A little after midnight, a neighbor on their street named Billie Joe Brown, was woken up by the sound of loud voices. At first, she didn’t know where the voices were coming from. She looked out of her bedroom window, but didn’t see anything, so she went to the kitchen window to look. There was a full moon that night, so she was able to see clearly- Vincent chasing Carrie in their front yard with Carrie’s car parked at the intersection. She heard Carrie yell, “help me!” before she tripped and started to fall to the ground, but before she hits the ground, Billie Joe sees Vincent grab Carrie, spin her around and punch her in the face before telling her, “the next time, I told you, I’d kill you, you fucking bitch!” When Billie Joe sees all of this, she immediately runs to wake up her husband to help, but by the time they get back to the window, Vincent and Carrie are gone and all she hears is the sound of tires squealing in the distance. She also notices that the red CRX is now gone.

Around 1 AM that same day, Vincent went to a neighbors house and asked to use the phone- telling them that the truck that he was driving was out of gas and that the payphone down the road was out-of-order. He uses their phone to make a call to his dad, Lawrence Baker.

Then, around 3:15 AM, Vincent’s sister-in-law, Lori Baker, says that she is woken up by someone knocking on the door. She goes to the door, where she sees Vincent standing there. She testified that a motion light was on, which allowed her to see Vincent clearly and that Vincent was standing there, not wearing a shirt, shoes or socks. He was only wearing a pair of jeans and there were blood smears on his arms, chests and pants. He asked if his brother was home, so Lori went to wake him up.

Lori watches from a bedroom window, and observes the brothers talking on the back porch, but can’t hear what they’re saying. After talking for a few minutes, Vincent takes a shower at their house, and the brothers leave together with a gun and several garbage bags around 3:45 AM.

Not only did Lori see Vincent, but so did her twin sister, Vicki. Vicki was upstairs in her niece’s room when she also saw Vincent through the bedroom window, standing at the back door. Her story is identical to Lori’s. She stated that she saw him standing there, only wearing jeans and that she knew it was him because she recognized a tattoo on his left arm of a grim reaper. She said that he appeared to be dirty. But, here’s the thing. Vicki wasn’t supposed to be at Lori’s house that night, and Vincent’s brother, Tracey, had no idea that she was there. Tracey didn’t get home that night until after Vicki and the kids had already gone to bed. 

At 6 AM, Lori is woken up again when Tracey and Vincent get back home. She testified that both of the brothers had blood on their clothes and witnesses Tracey wiping blood off of his boots. Both of the brothers took a shower, and Tracey told Lori to wash all of their clothes and that if anyone asks, that she hadn’t seen him since 2:30 AM.

Around 6:30 AM, Vincent leaves their house in his mustang to go to work and Tracey tells Lori that the police will be coming, and to get rid of the marijuana that they had been growing. Then, Vincent goes to work, too. 

At 11 AM that day, Vincent called the tanning salon where Carrie worked and asked to talk to her. He told the person who answered that he was on his lunch break and just wanted to say hello to her. But, Vincent never called that early. Carrie was due to be at work until 2 PM and Carrie never showed up to work that day. Vincent never called the salon again.

Around 11:30 AM, Lori Baker testified that Vincent called and told her that someone was wanting to buy his Mustang and that he was going to have to clean it up first, and asked if he could borrow her car. 

Then, a little after noon, Vincent goes to one of his friends house- Robert Shelton- and was making small talk about a truck that Robert had for sale. He then asked if he had any car ramps that he could borrow. Robert told him that he didn’t but another friend had a rollback truck that he could use. But, Vincent told him that he was trying to cover something up and didn’t really want anyone to know what was going on. Robert thought the conversation was strange, but didn’t report it until after Carrie went missing, when he likely put 2 and 2 together.

The same day that Lori saw the suspicious activity between her husband and Vincent, Lori confides in one of her friends, Carla Williams, about what she saw and that she didn’t want to believe that they were involved in something bad. Both Lori and her sister ended up going to that friend’s house that night and told her what they saw. Around 8 PM that night, Lori is agitated because Vincent had not yet returned her car that he had borrowed and she was stuck driving his mustang.

9 days after her disappearance, more than 300 volunteers spent the weekend searching for Carrie and her car. The Culberson family offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, but the searches didn’t find anything and to date, no one has come forward.

But, 3 days after Carrie went missing, police dogs finally got a hit on Carrie’s scent at one of Vincent’s family members property in neighboring Brown County. The scent was in a pond on the property. The pond was drained the next day, but nothing was found. However, the police chief at the time made a critical error after the dogs found the hit- he called off the search to make preparations for draining the pond ASAP, but in doing so, he left the pond unattended overnight. He basically gave the perfect opportunity to have anything removed from the pond that was related to the case.

Now, to date, neither Carrie or her car has been found, and the fact that her car was missing was very strange to me. It’s not uncommon for someone to hide a body well, but disposing of or hiding a car is much more difficult. In almost all of the reports about the pond, one word is missing- junk yard. As I was reading up on the case, I noticed one article that referred to the pond as the “junkyard pond” and I was taken back. That makes sense! It’s easy to dispose of a car if a family member has a junkyard! Yes, the property that they were searching was a relative of Vincent’s who owned a junkyard.  

TRIAL

After Carrie didn’t show up for work, Tonya starts looking for her. She went to Carrie’s parent’s house, and then to Vincent’s dad’s house. Vincent was there and told her that he hadn’t seen Carrie since Sunday.

Tonya keeps looking for Carrie and ends up going to talk to Vincent, again, and this time he tells her that maybe she oughta call up some of Carrie’s little boyfriends and ask them where she was. He also told her, “I hear you’ve been telling people about what happened between Carrie and I on Hunt Road. When you run your mouth like that, it makes me and my family look bad, and that’s not good.” Tonya left and would never speak to Vincent again.

On August 29th, Vincent’s dad, Lawrence Baker called the detective working Carrie’s case to confirm Vincent’s alibi. Lawrence told him that on the day that Carrie went missing, that he got a call from Vincent around 1 AM. He was calling from a friend’s house and said that the truck that he had borrowed from his dad had broken down 15 miles away from Blanchester. Lawrence told him to let it sit for a few minutes and if it still didn’t start, to call him back. Lawrence said that he waited about 15-20 minutes and then went across town to pick up another car. I’m assuming that these people were night owls or something because they did this around 1:30 AM. He said that after they picked up that other car, they stopped by Vincent’s house and saw that his front door was open with the lights and TV on. He testified that Vincent was asleep on the couch, so he turned off the lights, shut the front door and went home. 

Now, an important thing to note here is that Lawrence also testified that the truck that Vincent was driving could only go around 45-50 MPH. This was interesting because, if that were the case, it wouldn’t have been possible for Vincent to get from where he was at, 15 miles away from Blanchester, to his house and be asleep by 1:30 AM. When the prosecutor said this to Lawrence when he was being cross-examined, Lawrence pushed back the time estimate of when he was at Vincent’s house to 2 AM. From the beginning, detectives were suspicious of Lawrence’s statement because he was known as a career criminal.

Both Lori Baker and her sister, Vicki wanted to give their statements to police, but they were terrified of what would happen if Vincent and Tracey found out. Lori asked the detective to come to a private location but to not show up in a police uniform, cruiser, or anything that would make it obvious that he was an officer. When the officer arrived, they told him that they would not talk to him if he was going to record anything or take notes. The reason that they were so paranoid about coming forward was because they were threatened of the consequences of what would happen if they said anything about what they saw on August 28th. They ended up meeting with the detective on 2 different occasions to tell him what they saw.

During Vincent’s trial, Carrie’s mother, Debra Culberson testifies to Carrie’s ongoing abuse. She was able to confirm that the pictures of Carrie’s bruised face was a result of Vincent’s abuse. She said that on the night that Vincent’s Jeep had broken down, that Vincent tried to tell her that they had hit a bump in the road and that Carrie had hit her head on the roof of the car, but both Debra and Carrie’s dad, Roger said that they didn’t believe him. Vincent confessed that he had slapped Carrie around a little bit, but that he had never hit her with his fist.

Debra was also able to testify to Carrie’s injuries following the space heater incident, because Vincent had brought Carrie to Debra’s house and she was bleeding profusely. Again, Vincent tried to say that Carrie had hurt herself by falling onto a pole, and, again, Debra didn’t buy it. Vincent leaves Debra house and Carrie is taken to the hospital where she received 5 staples in the back of her head. This time, though, she goes to the police station afterwards and presses charges against Vincent.

Debra was 1 of the people who first started searching for Carrie, along with her friend Tonya and her sister. Of course, they asked Vincent if he had seen her, but he said that he had not. They end up going back to him, again, and pleading for him to tell them if he knew anything. He then tells them that he did see Carrie the night before. He said that he heard a car horn blowing, looked out of his window and saw Carrie driving all over the road and assumed that she was drunk. He said that he just shut the door.

The women spent the day searching for Carrie and asking anyone and everyone if they had seen her. They end up going back to Vincent’s house, again, to try to get more information after not being able to find out anything. Vincent tells them, again, about Carrie allegedly laying on her horn, but this time, says that he went outside to the street where her car was and argued with Carrie. He said that Carrie told him that he didn’t love her anymore and sped off.

In September of 1996, less than a month after Carrie went missing, Debra testified that she spoke to Vincent again. This time, Vincent was telling her that Carrie had been unfaithful to him and Debra said she told him, “come on, like you have never been unfaithful to her?” Vincent told her that he wasn’t capable of doing something like that because he loved Carrie. Debra said that she hugged Vincent and told him to please tell her if he knew anything because she just wanted to find Carrie.

Vincent is eventually arrested and while in jail, another inmate named Mitchell Epperson, makes a bet that he could find out what Vincent did to get put behind bars. That was an even easier task when the news came on, and Mitchell saw that he was suspected of being involved in Carrie’s disappearance. Mitchell started prying for information, asking Vincent if he had a girlfriend. Vincent told him that he did, but that she had cheated on him. Mitchell asked him what he did about that and, at first, Vincent said that he was angry but got over it and now he was behind bars so there wasn’t much he could do about it anyway. Mitchell says that he pressed him some more, saying, “you can’t let them walk all over you like that. If they cheat on you, you have to make them pay.” Mitchell said that Vincent told him that he’d lay awake at night and think of a hundred ways to kill her before he finally did it.”

The defense called several witnesses that told a very different story. One witness, named Gabrielle Jones testified that she was an acquaintance of Carrie’s and that on August 29th, she met Carrie at an intersection and honked her horn at her and Gabrielle noticed that her car was packed full of clothes as she went by. But, after she learned that Carrie was missing, she didn’t go to the police to tell them what she saw. Instead, she went to Vincent’s dad and told him. She said that she felt that he had a right to know what she had witnessed.

Another witness for the defence, Nancy Cecil testified that on August 31st that she was driving with her sister and 2 friends heading towards Williamsburg, when they saw a woman hitchhiking. They pulled over to ask her if she needed a ride, and the woman said, ‘yes’ and got in. Now this woman never identified herself as Carrie, but did say that she had been hitchhiking all day because her car had broken down in Maysville, Kentucky. Nancy stated that this woman had a black eye and they dropped her off at a grocery store where she told her to be careful because there were “a lot of crazies out there.” Later, Nancy saw Carrie’s picture on TV and stated that the woman was Carrie.

The defense called several more witnesses who shared different stories of seeing a woman who they believed to be Carrie. One person swore that they saw her crying outside of a gas station with a bag full of clothes; another person testified that she saw Carrie walking on the side of the road with a suitcase; another stated that while pumping gas, an SUV pulled up beside her and a man went into the store. She stated that a woman, who seemed to be very disoriented, had started to get out of the car, and when the man came back that he grabbed her by the arm and put her back inside the SUV; someone else testified that they saw a red Honda CRX, just like the one that Carrie owned, driving down the road, and they believed that it was Carrie driving, although they couldn’t be sure; another person testified that he, for sure, saw Carrie’s car because he had remembered the license plate number, but he was unable to see where the car went. The testimonies go on and on of people who believed that they saw either Carrie or her car, but none of them could prove it or be 100% sure. 

In fact, one of these supposed “eye witness” testimonies came from Vincent’s new girlfriend, Shannon Hodson, whom he had moved into his home less than 2 weeks after Carrie went missing. Shannon looked eerily similar to Carrie. 

The defense team also stated that Vincent’s sister-in-law, Lori Baker, was just a disgruntled ex-girlfriend of his. That’s right, according to Vincent’s defense, he and Lori had, at one time, had an affair. 

The prosecution had 2 possible theories for why Vincent killed Carrie. The first was that he simply was obsessed with her and didn’t want anyone else to have her if he could not. The second was that he wanted to prevent her from pursuing those charges that she had pressed over the space heater incident, because he was due in court over those charges the week after Carrie had gone missing.

One witness for the defense was Vincent’s neighbor, Colleen Baker, who testified that she was home that night and never heard a sound or saw anything.

In 1997, Vincent Doan was convicted for murder and kidnapping and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In 1998, Vincent’s brother Tracey was also convicted of tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice related to Carrie’s disappearance, but he was released in 2005.

Vincent’s dad, Lawrence was also charged with obstructing justice and tampering with evidence, but he was found not guilty due to lack of evidence.

In a sort of sick turn of events, Vincent sued the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections in 2015 after participating in their prison dog program where a dog attacked him. The dog apparently took a huge chunk out of Vincent’s nose and injured his face. Court documents stated that “The injuries have resulted in permanent disfigurement to his face as well as scarring and nerve damage to his gums and fingers.” He was originally asked for $25,000, but later settled for $7500. Since he’s an inmate, he didn’t have any medical bills, and it’s also unclear what an inmate would do with $7500.

LAWSUITS

In 2001, the Culberson family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the police department, accusing them of muddling the investigation into Carrie’s disappearance. The basis of the lawsuit was the simple fact that police had left the pond unattended overnight and provided an opportunity for any of the contents to be removed from it.

And, sure enough, the next day, when the pond was drained, footprints were visible on the bottom and her body wasn’t found. It’s believed that someone moved Carrie’s body while the pond was left unattended.

The lawsuit alleges wrongful death, violation of constitutional equal protection guarantees, civil rights violations, conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and obstruction of justice. All but 1 of the charges were dismissed, but District Court Judge Arthur Spiegel said the following, “At a minimum, Chief Payton’s alleged actions violated his duty as the chief law enforcement officer, and at a maximum, he was either explicitly or implicitly involved in the cover-up of Carrie’s murder and subsquent disposal of Carrie’s body.” He allowed the case to move forward and be presented before a jury.

A jury sided with the family and awarded Carrie’s parents with $3 million dollars and her younger sister with $750,000.

Later, the police chief, Richard Payton, was also charged for allowing the pond to be left unattended after finding Carrie’s scent. Chief Payton pleaded ‘no contest’ to the charges of mishandling of the case and mishandling valuable evidence and while one report said that he was fired from his job, the Culberson’s attorney released the following statement, contradicting that:

“It’s not clear to us that the village has learned anything from what happened here. From the citizens’ point of view, the police allowed their neighbor to be murdered- they failed to protect her. They allowed the police chief to be on leave with pay and to retire early. What the village learned from this incident was how to protect their police chief, not how to protect their citizens. The village did not enforce its domestic violence laws, and unfortunately, that has not changed.”

Roberta Valenta, the head of Domestic Violence Policy and Advocacy said that “the past 10 years have seen huge changes in criminal justice procedures for domestic violence that have permeated the law-enforcement culture. As we see here, there are places where it doesn’t work, but the changes in philosophies have been yielding some results. And now, we’re starting to see some of these types of changes on the civil side, as well.”

Then, in 2004, the owners of the junkyard that was searched extensively filed their own lawsuit against several different parties, including the Brown County Sheriff Department, the Brown and Clermont County commissioners and an insurance agency, claiming that their search “led to excessive personal and real property damages.” They were seeking compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $1 million dollars.

In this lawsuit, they claim that the search “exceeded the scope of the warrant by digging in an area much larger than the scope of the warrant allowed” and that the search was executed with “recklessness and malice.”

They claim that during the search, there was “destruction to a barn, fence and other structures, as well as significant loss of personal property, including loss of tools, destruction or damage to a number of automobiles and numerous household items.”

They also claim that the search also destroyed their septic system, somehow, which forced them to vacate the property. They stated that after they vacated, their property was vandalized and that their insurance company then cancelled their policy, and never paid them for the damages.

The Brown County Sheriff, Dwayne Wenninger issued a statement saying that he stood by his decision to have his deputies excavate the property after receiving the warrant from the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office. He said that he and others who participate in public professions are always subject to scrutiny but “we must still do the job that we are entrusted to do by the public.”

The search of the property was invasive. Police believed that Carrie’s body may have been under the barn, so the concrete was removed; there was extensive excavation work done and it was a mess. The attorney for the plaintiff’s alleged that the damage had reduced their property value from over $100,000 to just $20,000. 

In the end, the lawsuit was settled for around $190,000. The attorney for the defendants in the lawsuit said that it was “unfortunate that money had to be paid because of a search for a woman’s body” and that this money was being paid to people who had contact with Vincent, who was a convicted murderer. He said that “it’s unfortunate that people who work in public safety would be put in the position they were put in by the lawsuit.”

RUMORS

As you can imagine, rumors run wild throughout the community about what happened, and where Carrie and her car are at. One of the most bizarre rumors that I heard was from a forum online that said that the owner of the junkyard actually had a lion that guarded the junkyard. People speculated that Carrie’s remains were fed to the lion. 

Now, I have no idea if there’s any truth to that and I don’t quite understand how someone can own a lion, but a thread on Reddit has a comment from someone who says that they live in the area and remember seeing the lion as a kid. That same user also said that the Doan’s were not influential because they had money, but rather, because everyone knew that you didn’t want to mess with them.

CONCLUSION

To this day, Carrie’s body has never been found. She is presumed dead, but her family is still fighting to locate her remains. Carrie Ann Culberson was 5’2, 122 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. She had 2 tattoos, one of a sun on her right inner calf and one of a daisy on her right hip. She was last seen wearing a grey sweatshirt, cut off blue jean shorts and Adidas flip flops.

Carrie’s car has never been found, either. It was a red 1989 Honda CRX with Ohio license plate ROL402. 

If you have any information about the disappearance of Carrie Culberson, please contact the Brown County Sheriff’s Office at 937-378-4555.

In January of 2019, when Carrie would’ve been 45 years old, Debra Culberson told Fox 19, “I feel like Carrie would’ve accomplished a lot by now, but you still wonder. I wonder how many kids she might have, where she might be in her life and what she might look like now.”

She said, “After 23 years, you’ve got to learn to have some peace, but complete peace- that’ll never happen.”

Since Carrie’s disappearance, Debra has dedicated her life to victim advocacy. She’s a member of the Parents of Murdered Children, Team Hope, National Missing Persons Task Force and the Ohio Missing Persons Task Force. She has received countless awards for her activism and victim advocacy.

OUTRO

If you enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and leave a review! You can find all of the show notes and more information about this podcast at themherderpodcast.com. That’s the “mherder” podcast.com. 

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