Nickey Stane is a father, grandfather, and former Lyft driver who was named a prime suspect in the cold case death of Fresno, California college student Debbie Dorian, who was bound, gagged, raped and then murdered in her apartment in 1996.
For years, authorities believe, Stane harbored a secret as he went about what appeared on the outside to be a fairly typical life – dinners out with his kids, cooking on the grill at home.
Authorities have not formally charged Stane with Dorian’s death, but they revealed he was the suspect in a news conference. They say revolutionary DNA techniques – such as those used to catch the notorious Golden State Killer – led them to suspect Stane murdered Dorian and sexually assaulted women in nearby Visalia, California.
Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp confirmed that authorities anticipate that a murder charge will be filed. “Nickey Stane is every woman’s nightmare. He appears to be a regular person, and he is a sexual predator who has terrorized women throughout this Valley,” she said. The suspect’s full name is Nickey Duane Stane. The DA called him a “horrific monster.”
On Facebook, though, a second page with Stane’s photos pretended he was on the board of directors for a Fortune 500 company.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Dorian’s Father Discovered Her Body & Police Say They Have a DNA Match to Nickey Stane
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said in a press conference that Nickey Stane was arrested on a sexual assault accusation in Visalia while authorities continue investigating the Dorian homicide. He’s suspected in a string of sexual assaults in Visalia that occurred from the late 1990s to the early 2000s, according to ABC 30, which reported that two 18-year-old victims said the attacker used a gun and concealed his face. In one case, an attacker fondled a woman at a bus stop, the television station reported. He’s also accused of recording someone in a bathroom. However, he hasn’t been charged in all those attacks.
Authorities say he’s the primary suspect in Debbie Dorian’s death. It would represent a dramatic escalation in criminal behavior, all the while wearing the mask of normalcy.
In 1996, Debbie and her father were scheduled to go to San Francisco, but she didn’t go by the house that day. Her dad became concerned and called her house and place of employment. He received no response and realized that she hadn’t gone to work at her place of employment the day before, which was an Inn at the airport, the chief said.
Dorian’s dad went to her apartment and horrifically “found his daughter, 22 year old Debbie Dorian, bound, gagged and had been raped and was deceased,” according to Dyer.
Homicide investigators responded to the scene. “There was evidence collected at that scene, which included semen from Debbie Dorian.” A DNA sample was collected and uploaded to the CODIS DNA database of offenders. Authorities say they got a match to Stane.
2. Nickey Stane Worked Previously as a Lyft Driver & Wrote That He Was Divorced
The chief said he didn’t want to talk about Stane’s place of employment. However, Your Central Valley reported that Nickey Duane Stane, 52, of Visalia, was a former Lyft driver.
Lauren Alexander, a spokesperson for Lyft, told Your Central Valley: “Safety is fundamental to Lyft. This individual has not used Lyft since 2017. Based on this information his access to Lyft has been permanently removed and we stand ready to assist law enforcement with their investigation.”
On Facebook, Stane, who went by the name Nick Stane, wrote that he went to Exeter High School in Exeter, California and lived in Visalia, California. He also indicated that he was divorced. Facebook comments from him indicate he has a daughter and son who are adults. On Facebook, in 2018, he also wrote, “Decide to have some fun driving for uber tonight .. started at 9:45 and here it is 12:45 made $106 in Uber and $32 in cash tips already . Not a bad night for 3 hours at work a fun work.” Uber has not confirmed that claim. He posted a screenshot of his earnings. In 2017, he wrote, “My Uber customer tipped me fried chicken and sticky rice. Makes me happy:)”
In 2018, he also wrote, “Back from LA from a Management course. 97% on Final exam. I think I should had spent some time out of the bar and more time reviewing material.”
Stane had a 1999 bankruptcy case in federal court but the records are restricted or sealed.
3. Authorities Say Genetic DNA Testing Similar to the Golden State Killer Case Led Them to Nickey Duane Stane, Who Appears to Have Two Facebook Pages, With One Luring Women to Date Him
Nickey Stane’s Facebook page, at least the one in his real name, showcases what seems like a normal life. Pictures show him out with friends, smiling, and looking anything but the monster authorities described. “Homemade Caramel apples to take to my staff today…” he wrote in September. He wished his mom a happy birthday, posted photos of breakfast with his two kids, and showcased his dinners at home. He shared a video of a police officer being promoted to lieutenant and wrote, “What a great day this was!!!!” He shared photos of trips with his adult kids to amusement parks and museums, appeared to be a foodie both at home and out, and indicated he had grandkids. Action30 confirmed the page with an acquaintance of Stane’s.
A second Facebook page in the name Nick Steel contains the same pictures in multiple cases as the Facebook page in his actual name. The posts and photos on the Nick Steel page date back to 2017. On the page in his actual name, Nick Stane presented a wholesome image, although he also posted a lot of selfies and wrote things like this: “A combination of country music and a love for redheads. Thats the right stuff for this simple man.” On the Nick Steel page, he focused more on alcohol and comments about partying and dates.
That page says he was single and “Chairman of the Board of Directors at Fortune 500.” The top photo shows him with a stuffed pink pig and the caption, “My date and I wore pink last night..??” He also wrote that he installed a fireplace in his bedroom. “Thinking of looking for a drinking partner tonight? Message me,” he wrote on that page in 2018.
He also posted pictures from a car show, writing, “Car show today. Looking for one with a big back seat for me and you” and posted photos of alcohol. “Is that right?” a woman responded. “Nick Steel” wrote: “l Yes , for me and you .. lol and the other 100 + lady Friends on my Facebook ;)”
He wrote, “Out for a drink at Lum Lums. Not a bad pic. On a scale to 1 to 10. I’m a Solid 5 in this pic …..”
In 2018, “Nick Steel” wrote, “Single guy here….. lol.. just went to a wedding .. Really makes me feel i should get out there and date.”
Other captions on the Nick Steel page show him in Las Vegas, grilling out and declaring there was a party at his place.
New developments occurred in the case with advancements in DNA technology that “originated out of Sacramento.” That technique ultimately led to the Golden State murderer, said the chief. Genetic genealogy is when authorities put crime scene DNA into open-source databases. They are then able to find a link to a suspect’s family tree, sometimes through fairly distant relatives. Shoe-leather investigations then come into play, where authorities go through the family tree to identify likely suspects within it. Then, they get DNA from the likely suspects and compare it to the crime scene DNA. The revolutionary technique has led to the solving of cold cases throughout the country.
The chief didn’t give many details about how exactly Stane’s DNA was traced, but he did say it was the same process used in the Golden State Killer case.
The police chief in Fresno stressed that Nickey Stane “is the primary suspect in the rape and murder of Debbie Dorian. We anticipate the arrest of Stane for that murder and rape in the very near future once some additional investigative work is completed by our detectives. We do have a DNA match based on genetic genealogy. We have a match of DNA from the murder and rape of Debbie Dorian with the sexual assaults in Visalia. Both of those linking to Nickey Duane Stane.”
4. Debbie Dorian Was Studying Economics When She Was Murdered & Retired Detectives Started Investigating the Case Anew in 2016
Debbie Dorian had a successful life ahead of her; she was poised to receive a Fresno State degree in economics when she was slain, according to ABC30.
For years, her killer slipped away from the clutches of justice. Authorities now say that started to change in 2016 with the advances in DNA technology. Police now think the same man killed Dorian and sexually assaulted multiple women in Visalia.
Police previously said they thought more than one person was present when Dorian died, however. They haven’t clarified that statement now. The ABC30 television station reported that two retired homicide detectives, Robert Schiotis and Vince Zavala, conducted the reopened investigation, and they did it, Zavala told the television station, because “it is a calling.”
“This case has been continually worked over the last 23 years. Much of that work has been done by two detectives,” the chief said in the news conference.
They “continued to work that case for many years. Over the years they had continually uploaded that DNA sample into the CODIS system in hopes they would have some type of match. That did not occur.” They switched to genetic genealogy techniques then. The retired police officers asked to continue working the case as volunteers. One was hired as a reserve officer and the other as a volunteer.
5. Stane Kept Off the Radar Screen of Authorities for Years
According to ABC30, Stane “managed to mostly stay off the radar of law enforcement. He’s had very few police contacts throughout the years.”
A search warrant was served by the Fresno police at Nickey Stane’s address in Visalia on October 2, 2019. Fresno and Visalia police coordinated their efforts. The detectives recovered hundreds of items of potential evidence that they are now going through. Stane was interviewed by detectives. They haven’t revealed what he said.
“Due to the amount of investigative work that needed to be done by our detectives…we had a desire to ensure that Stane was not out of custody,” said the chief. Visalia police arrested him on warrants for sexual assault to give authorities in Fresno time to put together their murder case.
The chief said, “Anytime you are able to solve a violent crime like this, there’s a great deal of satisfaction…we can at least bring them (the family) some form of justice.” He called the identification of Stane “absolute justice.”
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