FRESNO, California (KSEE/KGPE) — A Visalia man who was arrested Wednesday for multiple Valley sex crimes was named the primary suspect in the 23-year-old unsolved “brutal” murder of Debbie Dorian due to new DNA technology that led to a breakthrough, Fresno Police announced Friday.
The mother of Debbie Dorian, Sara Loven described her daughter at a 2016 press conference, “She was beautiful, she was funny, she was energetic and she was independent.”
But at 22 years old, the Fresno State student’s life was cut short. Debbie Dorian’s father discovered her body in August 1996.
“Debbie was found brutally bound, gagged, raped and murdered inside her apartment,” said Jerry Dyer, former Fresno Police Chief.
DNA samples were recovered at the crime scene and police were able to match that DNA to evidence in 8 sexual assaults and kidnappings in Visalia from 1999 to 2002. At that time, DNA technology was in its infancy and the DNA could never be directly linked to a suspect.
“Her life was brutally cut short by evil people who caused her much pain the person or persons who savagely raped my daughter are still free and continue to hurt women. They have evil in their hearts and need to be brought to justice,” Loven said.
Nickey Duane Stane, 52, of Visalia, was arrested by authorities Wednesday after being connected with four sexual assaults in the Visalia area that occurred from 1999 to 2002, though police there said he could be connected to three others.
Authorities said they were able to crack the case through recent improvements in DNA matching technology, and compared their investigation with the Golden State Killer case.
“A DNA sample was obtained by the suspect and the DOJ lab was able to confirm a match of that sample to the DNA profile obtained in this investigation back in 1999,” said Visalia Police Chief Jason Salazar.
Officers were able to use DNA evidence from the earliest case to track down Stane as a suspect with the help of the Fresno Police Department’s DNA lab.
“As science and technology evolve the space for criminals to operate gets smaller and smaller,” said Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward.
Police said in most of the assault cases, the suspect targeted young women, wore a sweatshirt covering his face, threatened them with a gun and then took the victims to a secluded area, like an alley or behind a bush where they were assaulted.
“For those of you watching at home, for you or someone you know has been a victim of a violent crime know this, you are not forgotten,” said Ward.
Kirsten Mitchell and Lucero Benitez contributed to this story.