Wednesday, January 24, 2001

Chief knew of abuse of woman

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A self-portrait emerged from the witness stand Tuesday of a small-village police chief well aware of escalating violence against Carrie Culberson.

        Threats in January 1996 by her boyfriend, Vincent Doan. A bruised face in April 1996. Then in July of that year, a head injury when Mr. Doan, according to police records, hit her with a space heater cover, then forced her to participate in the cover-up.

        In August 1996, her murder. She was 22.

        Former Blanchester Police Chief Richard Payton acknowledged in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati Tuesday that “I was concerned that this would continue.”

Carrie Culberson
        That concern, and the police conduct that followed the disappearance of Ms. Culberson, comprise the core issue of the Culberson family's civil-rights suit against Blanchester. The suit alleges Blanchester deprived the family of Ms. Culberson's body after she was murdered by Mr. Doan by not securing a pond where search dogs had indicated her body might be. The former chief made that decision. When the pond was drained the next day, no body was found.

        Mr. Payton, 48, now retired and living in Tampa, Fla., was dismissed as a defendant and is now a key witness.

        Culberson attorney Alphonse Gerhardstein Tuesday detailed the pattern of abuse against Ms. Culberson, which the Culbersons contend should have made police far more careful about preserving a potential evidence site.

        Mr. Gerhardstein then read a police statement written by Ms. Culberson after the July assault.

        “I fell to my knees and started crying,” she wrote. “He took me to the bathroom to wash off. ... he told me to stop crying or he'd really hurt me.”

        “Did you ever talk to her (about concerns for her safety)?” Mr. Gerhardstein asked Mr. Payton.

        “No,” Mr. Payton said, adding that he believed other officers did.


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