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Charges filed in 1988 murder case

Charges were filed and a series of motions discussed Thursday morning, all concerning Charles Ray Stane — the suspect in a 1988 Pagosa Springs homicide case.

On Tuesday, May 1, Stane waived his right to a speedy proceeding and was scheduled for a preliminary hearing in July.

The first order of business during the April 26 hearing was officially charging Stane, 56, for the 1988 murder of Vickie Dexter. The charge: first-degree murder, a class 1 felony.

That charge, according to Archuleta County Court Judge Jim Denvir, who read the complaint, comes with a presumptive sentence of life imprisonment or the death penalty, though the District Attorney’s office made it known that it will not seek the death penalty in the case.

The charges stem from a discovery made on Saturday, Oct. 15, 1988 — when a group of tourists from Georgia discovered a body floating in a shallow hot springs pool located next to what is now Hot Springs Boulevard, across the street from where the U.S. Post Office is now located.

The body was that of Dexter, 40, who had moved to Pagosa Springs earlier that year.

Det. Scott Maxwell, of the Pagosa Springs Police Department, previously reported that Dexter died from multiple injuries, but, according to a SUN report from 1988, an autopsy done in the days following the discovery revealed Dexter died of asphyxiation, with the probable cause being strangulation.

The pool Dexter’s body was found in is no longer in existence, and the case remains without a conviction.

The 1988 investigation into the incident quickly centered on a person of interest following completion of more than 80 interviews within the first week of the incident, but no arrest was ever made.

That person of interest was Stane, a truck driver who, according to Maxwell, was identified as being in the company of Dexter the night before her body was found.

The case has been looked at several times over the almost 24 years since the incident by investigators and evidence technicians from the PSPD, Archuleta County and the District Attorney’s Office, including Mike Owens, Carl Smith and George Barter.

It wasn’t until the PSPD received grant funding from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (to help with technical assistance, evidence testing, overtime wages, and travel reimbursement to more vigorously investigate the case) that additional movement occured

Through that investigation, Maxwell said new information was presented and connections with witnesses were reestablished.

“We were able to reach a point where we believe we have a strong, prosecutable case,” Maxwell said.

That information was enough to obtain an arrest warrant for Stane for first-degree murder on March 22. Stane was subsequently arrested on March 23 by the Lamar Police Department.

There is no statute of limitations on murder.

Maxwell said the PSPD was informed last August by an LPD sergeant that Stane had been released from prison and was living in Lamar.

Maxwell said the LPD likely knew of Stane’s status as a suspect in the cold case because the two agencies had worked together after the homicide, when Stane was a suspect in incidents in the Lamar area, as well as later communicating about Stane in 1992 about yet another incident in the Lamar area.

Stane was released from the Colorado Department of Corrections in August after completing a sentence for felony second-degree sexual assault, for which he was convicted in March of 1992. Stane is a registered sex offender.

After the reading of the complaint against Stane last Thursday, a series of 10 routine motions was dealt with.

One such motion, which was granted, is a “gag order,” which limits pretrial publicity about the case.

Many of the motions resulted in putting the state (the District Attorney’s office) on notice that personnel must follow all rules and procedures set out in law, that technicians and employees testify in person, and more.

One motion voiced at Thursday’s hearing sought to ban prosecution officials and law enforcement from contacting Stane about the case at hand.

Stane’s attorney, John Moran, of Durango, stated that, while the district attorney’s office may understand those obligations well, law enforcement may not, and may not understand what may blend into the case at hand.

Moran also indicated that information on other crimes involving Stane may be subject to Colorado Rule of Evidence 404(b) in the future — which states, in part, “Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show that he acted in conformity therewith.”

Deputy District Attorney Alex Lowe argued, however, that while a protection order preventing Stane from contact by the DA’s office is standard, the office does have the right, “in future unrelated matters that may need investigation.”

Denvir made no distinct ruling on the motion at the hearing.

Two motions dealing with consumptive testing were mitigated with a requirement that the DA’s office give the defense 72-hours notice before consumptive testing takes place and will make reasonable attempts to allow the defense to be present at the testing.

“We’re pursuing the truth-seeking function of this court,” Moran said in discussing the second motion on the topic.

The seventh motion heard on the day was for the prosecution to preserve and produce additional materials, such as notes, records, e-mails and more.

Lowe argued that the request was “overly broad,” may reveal trial strategy, and stated that the prosecution objected to the turning over of e-mails between the investigators and DA’s office, citing that the documents are not normally discoverable.

Lowe added that everything normally discoverable had been turned over.

Moran argued that he was interested in e-mails related to the investigation that spoke to the guilt of the accused or worked to establish guilt of the accused.

After it was determined that files concerning trial strategy would not be included, Denvir asked how many e-mails would fall under the request — a question to which Lowe said he did not know the answer.

At the end of the discussion, Denvir said he would permit the motion, but directed Moran to prepare a specific motion that excluded documents dealing with trial strategy.

Lowe again indicated that he had turned over everything that existed in the case as part of what he later said was over 3,000 pages and multiple CDs of discovery.

On Tuesday, the motion was again heard, this time by District Court Judge Gregory Lyman, who granted the motion, but without text and e-mail messages falling under discoverable material.

A ninth motion sought to prohibit the prosecution from obtaining Stane’s jail and prison records, including medical and nursing records generated by the facilities.

In arguing for the motion, Moran stated that the comings and goings of the defense team is not relevant to the prosecution, adding that Stane spent 19 years in prison, at which time psychological and such evaluations may have been done.

Denvir stated that perhaps the request should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, with Lowe arguing that the defense has no right to dictate the prosecution, adding that such a request had been denied in Archuleta County before and the records at question in the request are open records.

Denvir agreed that the motion was overly broad, stating that, should questions of privilege be raised, they could be dealt with before trial.

Stane is being held in the Archuleta County Detention Center on a $1 million bond — an amount set at Stane’s first advisement hearing on April 5.

At that hearing, Denvir set Stane’s bond at $1 million with cash surety, with Lowe suggesting that Stane is a flight risk.

Because of that, should Stane bond out, GPS monitoring will be required and Stane will be barred from leaving Colorado.

Stane was represented by Justin Bogan at his first appearance and by Moran at last week’s appearance.

randi@pagosasun.com

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