Crime

Visalia sexual assault suspect arrested for 1996 killing of Fresno State student

DNA evidence has linked a Visalia man to a 23-year-old homicide case in Fresno, Police Chief Jerry Dyer said Friday.

Nick Duane Stane, 52, was arrested Wednesday in Visalia, on suspicion of raping and killing Fresno State student Debbie Dorian in 1996.

Stane was in custody in Tulare County in connection with a series of attacks on women from 1999 through 2002. He pleaded not guilty Friday to those charges and was denied bail.

Stane also will soon be formally charged with Dorian’s murder, Dyer said Friday at a news conference with Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp.

The arrest of Stane ends a decades-long hunt for the suspect in the killing of Dorian, an economics student who was found by her father, Peter Dorian, on Aug. 22, 1996. She had been bound, gagged, raped, and slain in her apartment near North Cedar and East Teague avenues. Police never ended the search for Dorian’s killer, and in 2016 two department detectives continued to hunt for the murderer long after retiring.

Said Smittcamp of the suspect: “He is every woman’s nightmare. .... A sexual predator who has terrorized women throughout the Valley.”

Said Dyer: “I can’t imagine, as a father, going into an apartment and finding my daughter bound and gagged (and slain).”

The chief credited detectives Bob Schiotis and Vince Zavala, who were active on the case when it happened, with persevering in the hunt for the suspect — Schiotis as a volunteer, and Zavala as a reserve officer — after retiring.

Dyer said he could not get into specifics for now about how Stane was identified through the DNA evidence.

The chief said he believed that Stane would be held in custody in Tulare County until Fresno County charges are filed. Stane was arrested on a so-called “John Doe warrant,” by Visalia police because he was linked to the Tulare County crimes, Dyer said.

The DNA evidence links semen recovered from the Dorian crime scene with a sexual assault in Visalia, he added.

Smittcamp said Stane’s only previous known criminal history were non-felony sexual offenses in the 1980s.

Smittcamp acknowledged complexities involved in “navigating prosecution” of Stane in the two counties. But she added:

“I can’t imagine a man who has been a predator for more than 30 years will ever get out (of custody).”

Stane’s next court date in Tulare County is set for Oct. 16 for a preliminary hearing conference.

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