Police arrest ‘monster’ who terrorized women
Nickey Duane Stane is arrested for string of sexual assaults from 1999-2002 in Visalia, named primary suspect in 23-year-old murder in Fresno
By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
VISALIA – A man law enforcement officials described as “every woman’s nightmare” was arrested last week for a string of sexual assaults that happened 20 years ago and possibly a cold case murder in Fresno.
The Visalia Police Department arrested 52-year-old Nickey Duane Stane of Visalia on Oct. 1 in connection with eight sexual assaults that occurred between July 1999 and August 2002. Stane is charged with eight felony counts including sexual battery, kidnapping, forcible oral copulation with special allegations for the use of a handgun. He is also being charged with a misdemeanor for peeping into a bathroom between Aug. 1 and Oct. 2 of this year.
“We believe there are other crimes with some similarities,” Visalia Police Chief Jason Salazar said during an Oct. 3 press conference. “This is a case that struck fear in the heart of women in Visalia and at one time there was a $50,000 reward for information leading to the suspect’s arrest.”
Stane graduated from Exeter Union High School in 1985 but currently lives in Visalia. He held several jobs including work as an Uber/Lyft driver in the Visalia area, according to his Facebook page. Stane matches the description given the women who were assaulted: a white male, who would have been approximately 30 years of age at the time, standing between 5’6” and 6’0” in height, with a slender or medium build. He used a black handgun in every instance and all of the victims were in their late teens or early 20s except for one instance. The suspect typically used a hooded sweatshirt drawn tight around his face and on one occasion used a bandanna to conceal his face. In almost every case, the suspect demanded the women expose their breasts, attempted to force oral copulation and he masturbated while touching them.
John Doe’s crimes
Ward said the case would have remained unsolved if not for the decision to file a John Doe arrest warrant 10 years ago. On July 1, 2009, the DA’s office filed an eight-count felony complaint that listed a description of the suspect and the DNA profile without knowing the identity of the suspect.
“This was the first such John Doe case ever filed on a DNA profile in Tulare County,” Ward said.
The crimes began on July 30, 1999. At 11:40 p.m. a 19-year-old female was riding her bike home from work down Walnut Avenue near San Joaquin Drive when she saw a man approaching. The man jumped in front of her bike and pointed a handgun at her. He forced her behind a vehicle some bushes on a side street. He threatened that he would harm her if she made any noise. He then forced the girl to her knees and began to fondle her while he masturbated. The victim then rode her bike home and reported the crime.
At 7:35 p.m. on Sept. 26, 1999 an 18-year-old female was walking home from work in downtown area on Church Street near School Avenue when she noticed a suspicious male approaching her. She tried to cut through a dirt field but he cut her off. He forced her behind some bushes at gunpoint. The man fondled her while he masturbated and attempted to force the girl to perform oral copulation. When she refused, he became agitated and then allowed her to leave the scene.
At 6:45 a.m. on Oct. 26, 2001, a 17-year-old girl was walking west on Grove Street on her way to Redwood High School. The woman told officers that a man began walking toward her but then walked out of her view. As she approached an alleyway in the 400 block of West Grove Street he confronted her. He told her to come with him and he forced her into the alleyway. He forced her into oral copulation.
The only victim over the age of 20 was a 41-year-old woman who was attacked on Jan. 4, 2002. At 6:35 a.m. the woman was standing at a bus stop to go to work when a man came from behind her in the 900 block of West Murray Avenue. She attempted to flee but he threatened to kill her. The man demanded she open her jacket so that he could grope her while he masturbated and she complied out of fear for her life.
Salazar said three other cases matched the description of modus operandi of the crimes but were not part of the original complaint filed in 2009 so the statute of limitations has passed.
At 10 p.m. on April 2, 2001, a 21-year-old woman was waiting for a ride at the bus depot in the 1900 block of East Mineral King Avenue when she noticed a man who came up to her. He forced her behind the bus depot, but there was too much light, so he forced her behind a second building. The woman began studying the suspect’s face and he instructed her not to look at his face or he would shoot her. He then fled the scene.
At 6:25 a.m. on Jan. 27, 2002, a 20-year-old woman arrived early to work and was sitting in her parked car in the 500 block of South Mooney Boulevard when a man in a hooded sweatshirt emerged from behind a storage shed and approached the passenger side of her car. He pulled out a handgun and tapped the window, and the woman put the car in reverse and drove away.
At 8:42 p.m. on Aug. 23, 2002, two 17-year-old female victims were walking near Conyer Street and Center Avenue when they saw a man walking toward them. The girls noticed the man had a bandanna covering his face. As he approached the two teenagers he pulled out a gun and told them to expose their breasts. One of the girls complied and then he fled on foot.
“This arrest is the culmination of 20 years of work by our investigative team to ensure that justice was ultimately served for the victims,” Salazar said. “This suspect committed horrific crimes upon female victims in this community.”
The oldest crime was the most crucial in solving the 20-year-old cold case. When officers returned to the scene of the crime on July 31, 1999, they were able to obtain a semen sample that became the basis for the DNA profile of the suspect.
Unfortunately, there was no break in the case until earlier this year when the DNA profile was matched to Stane’s DNA. Stane, or a family member, had uploaded a DNA sample to a genealogy website, which matched the DNA found at the 1999 crime scene, similar to the investigation that led to the arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo as the Golden State Killer last year.
“It is clear that genetic genealogy was the best, most effective investigative lead we had in over 20 years,” Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward said. “Twenty years out and it gets tougher for our office,” Ward said. “But there is a tool that will never erode or dissipate and that’s DNA.”
Ward credited Sacramento County District Attorney Marie Ann Schubert for their groundbreaking work in the use of DNA to identify suspects in cold cases.
Nikki Duta, assist director of the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Forensic Science said her office is constantly checking DNA samples against the CODIS database and has generated 85,000 investigative leads in California and beyond.
“Sexual assault is a serious crime that has no place in our society,” she said. “It ruins lives and nobody wants to see these cases go cold.”
Stane was arraigned on Oct. 4 at the Tulare County Pretrial Facility where he pleaded not guilty. His next court date is a preliminary hearing conference on Oct. 16 in Department 4 of the Tulare County Superior Court in Porterville. He is being held without bail, which was crucial to a parallel investigation going on in Fresno.
On Oct. 3, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer announced that Stane was the primary suspect in a 23-year-old murder being investigated by the Fresno Police Department. Dyer said he expects to arrest Stane for the rape and murder of Debbie Dorian in the near future but did not specify a timeline.
Dorian, a 22-year-old college student, was murdered in her apartment on Aug. 22, 1996. Dyer said Debbie and her father were planning a trip to San Francisco and when she didn’t show up at this house, her father became concerned. After repeated calls to her apartment and her employer at the Picadilly Inn at the Fresno Airport, the father went to Debbie’s apartment where he found his daughter’s body. The woman was gagged, bound, raped and then murdered.
A DNA sample was obtained from the scene and department detectives began working the case. Two detectives continued to work the case after taking jobs with the Department of Justice and even after their retirement. Dyer said the two routinely uploaded the DNA sample to FBI’s national DNA database known as CODIS (Combined DNA Indexing System) to look for a potential match but because Stane did not have any prior felony convictions his DNA was not in the system.
Earlier this year, Dyer said the former investigators and current officers began working with the Visalia Police Department after discovering that the John Doe DNA from Dorian’s murder matched the sexual assaults in Visalia. Stane’s arrested was coordinated between the Fresno and Visalia police departments. After obtaining a search warrant, Dyer said detectives recovered 25 boxes holding hundreds of items of potential evidence. Dyer said Stane was arrested on the VPD warrant in order to buy his detectives more time to sift through the evidence and build a solid case for Stane’s arrest.
“I can’t imagine what Debbie’s parents have endured over the years,” Dyer said. “We want to make sure this individual never gets out of prison again.”
Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp said there is no timeline on filing charges against Stane because there is no statute of limitation on murder cases. She said there hope is that no judge will ever grant Stane bail based on the evidence they already have.
“Nickey Stane is every woman’s nightmare,” Smittcamp said. “He appears to be a normal person and he is a sexual predator who has terrorized women throughout the Valley. We will try to bring him to justice for all of the victims of this horrific monster.”
Smittcamp said Stane does have a criminal history dating back to the 1980s including a few misdemeanor level sexual offenses in Fresno County but no prior felony arrests or convictions.