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California man arrested in string of sex assaults now 'prime suspect' in 1996 rape, murder

The 52-year-old man is accused of raping and murdering 22-year-old college student Debbie Dorian in August 1996. Dorian's father found her body bound and gagged in her apartment.

A California man arrested in connection to a string of sexual assaults is now the "prime suspect" in the 1996 rape and murder of a 22-year-old college student after DNA evidence linked him to the crime, authorities said.

Nickey Duane Stane, 52, was taken into custody in Visalia on Wednesday and charged with sexual battery by restraint, forcible oral copulation and kidnapping to commit another crime, Tulare County jail records state. The charges are related to sexual assaults committed between 1999 and 2002 in Visalia, about 43 miles south of Fresno.

Fresno District Attorney Lisa A. Smittcamp said at a news conference Friday that authorities also plan to file murder and rape charges against Stane over the death of Debbie Dorian, whose body was found bound and gagged in her apartment by her father on Aug. 22, 1996.

Nick Duane Stane, who was arrested this week in a string of sexual assaults in Central California, has now been named a suspect in the rape and killing of college student, Debbie Dorian, in 1996.Visalia Police Department via AP / AP

"Nickey Stane is every woman's nightmare," Smittcamp said. "He appears to be a regular person and he is a sexual predator who has terrorized women throughout this valley."

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said at Friday's news conference that DNA evidence taken at Dorian's home was found to match evidence taken from the scene of a sexual assault in Visalia. The two police departments began working together earlier this year following new developments, Dyer said, without elaborating.

Dorian, who according to local media was a student at Fresno State, was supposed to meet up with her father before they took a trip to San Francisco, Dyer said. When she failed to meet her father, he became concerned and went to her apartment where she was discovered dead.

“I can’t imagine, as a father, going into an apartment and finding my daughter bound and gagged," the police chief said.

"Any time you are able to solve a violent crime like this there is a great deal of satisfaction knowing that although you will never bring any type of closure to the family, we can at least bring them some form of justice," he said.

In the years after Dorian's murder, authorities allege Stane sexually assaulted at least seven women in Visalia. The victims ranged in ages from 17 to 41, and Stane would threaten them with a handgun, police in Visalia said at a separate news conference.

Authorities in Fresno and Visalia said there could be additional victims. District Attorney Smittcamp said Stane has a criminal record from the '80s that are "sexual in nature." He was arraigned on charges related to the sexual assaults on Friday and is being held on a no-bail warrant.