Editor’s note — This story is part of an investigative series on convicted two-time Highland County murderer Michael Fogt. After the bodies of his former wife and an acquaintance were discovered in Hillsboro in 2005, Fogt’s involvement in other local crimes was called into question. His connections to the disappearances of Carrie Culberson and Shane Neuhaus have led some to believe he could be a Highland County serial killer. In this story the disappearance of Carrie Culberson is examined.
Blanchester resident Carrie Culberson went missing on Aug. 29, 1996. Her boyfriend, Vincent Doan, was convicted of her murder, but her body and car have never been found. Some connections between Michael Fogt and the Culberson case are too strange to ignore.
The last installment of this series covered the disappearance of Shane Neuhaus. While that story was one of a man who slipped through the cracks of society and never had a strong hold on the media, the Culberson story is one that captivated the country.
The young and beautiful hairdresser took newspapers and television stations by storm in Highland County and beyond. It’s one of the most famous missing persons cases in Southern Ohio, and those who were around to remember Culberson’s story remember the hold it had on Blanchester and surrounding cities.
For good reason, the case still haunts the area, and not everyone is convinced that all guilty parties were brought to justice.
Culberson was born on Jan. 31, 1974. She had a cheery disposition and a passion for cosmetology, working as a nail technician in Blanchester. But on an August day in 1996, after she had discussed breaking up with her Doan, Culberson was nowhere to be found.
At 6 a.m., her mother, Debra Culberson, noticed Carrie and her red Honda CRX were missing. Assuming she had gone into town, she drove around for herself hoping to spot her daughter.
After her search ended without any sightings of Carrie, she enlisted the help of her husband and Carrie’s father, Roger Culberson, and two of Carrie’s friends who had been with Carrie the night before. But when they found nothing, police became involved.
Nine days later, a massive search around Blanchester was conducted with mmore than 300 volunteers scouring fields, buildings and forests for any trace of Carrie. But the search parties had no luck.
Desperate for information, the Culberson family offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to Carrie’s recovery, and made public pleas on the “Oprah Winfrey Show”, “Inside Edition” and other television networks.
After thorough questioning, investigators began to piece together a theory on what happened to Carrie. Her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Doan, had allegedly hit her in the head with a space heater just days before, an incident Carrie told her close friends about.
Fed up with his abusive nature and possibly considering pursuing assault charges, Carrie had tried to break things off with him, but in a fit of rage, Doan killed her.
According to a witness, Doan tried to get Carrie to leave from a Morrow volleyball game, but she refused. A neighbor informed police that she witnessed Carrie being dropped off at her house at 11:45 p.m. and saw a car back out of the driveway with no headlights on.
The most critical evidence was that of another neighbor. She described seeing a loud argument in the front yard of the Culberson house and overheard Doan make threats to Carrie.
After a search of a possible co-conspirator Jarrod Messer’s property, a recently poured concrete floor was discovered to be hiding a piece of duct tape, sock, and a shirt that Carrie’s mother confirmed to be her daughter’s. The concrete was poured just days after her disappearance.
Messer, who was a close friend of Fogt, was investigated in connection, but it was ultimately Doan who was convicted of her murder, despite there being no body or hard evidence.
Investigators believed Doan had help in the kidnapping and/or the murder of Carrie. His connections with Fogt were noted in local papers and news coverage, but a more serious look at his involvement was taken after his crimes came to light in 2005. A number of strange connections were made.
For one, police received an anonymous tip that Carrie’s body was buried on Messer’s property, the same man, as mentioned in an earlier installment of this series, that Fogt shot in 1994. Doan appears on many “Victim of the State” lists for wrongfully convicted inmates, and these sites point to the fact that local police didn’t explore other leads such as Fogt and Messer being involved.
In a small town like Blanchester, perhaps it is only a coincidence that Fogt lived next door to Carrie’s best friend’s parents. Many believe Fogt may have even known Carrie personally, but no one seems to be completely sure.
Fogt’s many crimes are brutal enough on their own, but was he secretly involved in two notorious Highland County disappearances?
Fogt has never admitted to involvement in these cases, but speculation leads many to wonder just how evil this man really is, and if law enforcement is overlooking some of his most heinous crimes.