Action News has uncovered new information about the investigation, including the first link between sex crimes in Visalia and Fresno, and why the defense wants to keep the cases separate.
A red prison jumpsuit and cuffs have been standard paraphernalia for Nickey Stane since his October 2019 arrest for a string of sex crimes in Tulare County nearly 20 years earlier.
Fresno police also linked him to the 1996 sexual assault and murder of Fresno State student Debbie Dorian.
Prosecutors have consolidated all of the alleged crimes into a single Fresno County criminal case, which his defense attorney says is prejudicial.
“The sole purpose of doing this is to tarnish Mr. Stane’s reputation and make it easier for Fresno District attorneys to secure a conviction,” defense attorney Jane Boulger said.
Boulger argues that the crimes occurred in two different counties and while they are all sexual in nature, the Tulare County cases all share a methodology unlike what happened to Dorian.
“It was on the street and it was alleged he was more powerful where with Ms. Dorian there is no sign of forced entry,” Boulger said.
Prosecutors point out that Visalia and Fresno investigators worked together to identify the serial sex offender.
DNA evidence led to a wrongful arrest in 1996, but by 2002 technology and coordination had improved.
DNA from the scene of Dorian’s murder matched DNA from a sexual assault of Visalia – one of four that prosecutors say Stane has now confessed to.
But he denied raping and killing Dorian and investigators did not know what DNA they collected until 2019.
Genetic genealogy pointed to Stane, so police retrieved items from his trash can for a comparison.
It matched, so they got a warrant to collect more DNA directly from Stane, which they say confirmed he committed Visalia’s crimes and Dorian’s rape and murder.
“But the question is, it’s been since 1996. What happened to that DNA evidence? Is it missing?” said legal analyst Tony Capozzi.
Capozzi says the DNA evidence strengthens Dorian’s charges, but the defense will try to single them out, especially in a potential death penalty trial.
And he says the combination of cases could become grounds for appeal.
“The introduction of the Tulare County cases really adds to the case against this defendant in terms of sexual predator,” Capozzi said. “Does that mean he raped and killed that person? Not necessarily.
A hearing is scheduled for next month for a judge to decide whether or not to sever the Tulare County cases and let the Dorian murder case stand alone.
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