BY STEVE KEMME
The Cincinnati Enquirer
WILMINGTON, Ohio -- Lawrence Baker told a jury Monday he did not help cover up the 1996 murder of 22-year-old Carrie Culberson.
Contradicting the testimony of his ex-daughter-in-law, Mr. Baker said he did not encourage anyone to get rid of a bloody T-shirt and scrub brush and did not tell anyone to lie to police.
A Clinton County Common Pleas Court jury will decide whether Mr. Baker is guilty of two counts of obstructing justice and one count of tampering with evidence. After listening to six days of testimony, the jury began deliberating late Monday afternoon. Mr. Baker, of Blanchester, could become the third member of his family convicted of a crime in connection with the August 1996 disappearance of Ms. Culberson, the ex-girlfriend of his son Vincent Doan.
Mr. Doan is serving a life sentence for kidnapping and murdering Ms. Culberson. Another of Mr. Baker's sons, Tracey Baker, is serving eight years in prison for his role in helping to cover up the crime. Ms. Culberson's body has never been found.
Tracey Baker's ex-wife, Lori Baker, testified last week that Lawrence Baker told her to lie to police and to get rid of a T-shirt of Tracey Baker's that was splattered with Ms. Culberson's blood and a scrub brush that Mr. Doan had used to try to remove Ms. Culberson's blood from the T-shirt and himself.
But Lawrence Baker said he didn't know the T-shirt and scrub brush contained blood.
He said she brought the T-shirt and scrub brush to him and said the police had not taken them during a search of their house. She asked him what to do with them, he said.
Mr. Baker said he did not see blood on either object. The T-shirt just had holes from battery acid, he said.
"I told her, "If (the police) had wanted that T-shirt, they would have taken it,' " he said. " "I don't want it around me. If you don't want it, throw it away.' "
He testified she dropped the T-shirt into a garbage can in his house.
In closing arguments, Clinton County Prosecutor Bill Peele said Mr. Baker's testimony is so riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions that he can't be believed.
Mr. Peele attacked Mr. Baker's credibility by examining the alibi that Mr. Baker allegedly provided for Mr. Doan. Mr. Baker testified that at 1 a.m. Aug. 29, 1996 -- a half-hour after Ms. Culberson was last seen -- Mr. Doan called him 13 miles from Blanchester.
A half-hour later, he said, he saw him asleep on the couch in his home.
Mr. Doan would have needed far more time than 27 minutes to drive 13 miles, drop off Mr. Baker's truck at his house, walk two blocks to his own house and fall asleep on his couch, he said.
"It doesn't make sense," Mr. Peele said.
But defense attorney Paris K. Ellis said in his closing arguments that Lawrence Baker cooperated fully with police during the investigation and that Lori Baker, a key witness in all three trials, lied repeatedly.