Advances in DNA technology have led to the arrest of a longtime Visalia resident accused in a string of sexual assaults in the late 1990s and early 2000s and now suspected in the 1996 rape and killing of a female college student, authorities said.
Nickey Duane Stane, 52, was arrested last week after new tests of genetic evidence collected from a 1999 attack matched Stane’s DNA, officials said.
Stane pleaded not guilty Friday to charges in four sexual assaults that occurred in Visalia between 1999 and 2002, according to Stuart Anderson, a spokesman for the Tulare County district attorney’s office. The charges include four counts of sexual battery by restraint, two counts of kidnapping to commit forcible oral copulation and one count of forcible oral copulation, as well as multiple special allegations that he used a firearm in the crimes.
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said Friday that additional charges in connection with the 1996 death of a 22-year-old college student would come in the “very, very near future.” As of Monday, no charges had been filed in the death of Debbie Dorian, whose body was found bound and gagged in her apartment by her father after she didn’t go home for a planned trip.
“Nickey Stane is every woman’s nightmare,” Fresno County Dist. Atty. Lisa Smittcamp said. “He appears to be a regular person, and he is a sexual predator who has terrorized women throughout this valley.”
Prosecutors say Dorian was raped and killed in her apartment 23 years ago. Investigators collected evidence, including semen found on her body at the crime scene. The DNA was uploaded into the national Combined DNA Index System, also known as CODIS, but no match was found.
In a separate series of sexually based cold cases, Fresno detectives recently began working with the Visalia Police Department, using new technology to examine old DNA. Such advances have led to the identification of suspects in previously unsolved crimes, including the Golden State Killer case.
On Wednesday, Visalia officers arrested Stane in connection with four sexual assaults.
Police are still investigating potential connections between Stane and Dorian.
In a news conference last week, Visalia Police Chief Jason Salazar said investigators think Stane is connected to at least seven sexual assaults in Visalia in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, but he is charged in only four cases.
Authorities say Stane forced a 19-year-old woman riding her bike onto a side street at gunpoint
on July 30, 1999. There, Salazar said, he threatened the woman, fondled her breasts and masturbated. DNA from semen collected at the scene matched Stane, as well as the DNA found on Dorian’s body, according to Visalia and Fresno authorities.
Two months later, prosecutors said, Stane pulled a sweatshirt over his face and forced an 18-year-old woman walking home from work into nearby bushes. He forced her to unbutton her shirt, fondled her breasts and demanded oral sex, Salazar said. The woman refused and Stane became agitated but allowed her to escape, authorities said.
The sexual assaults continued in 2001, when police said Stane threatened a 17-year-old girl with a gun and forced her to perform oral sex on him in an alley. Authorities said Stane wrapped the hood of a sweatshirt tightly around his face to conceal his identity and told the girl to count to 100 after he left, saying he would hunt her down if she didn’t comply.
A couple of months later, on Jan. 4, 2002, Stane attacked a 41-year-old woman at a bus stop and fondled her breasts before fleeing, Salazar said.
Stane is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Oct. 16, according to court records.