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Arrest made in 1988 murder case

A Pagosa Springs cold case homicide investigation concerning a 1988 incident heated up last Friday with the arrest of a man in Lamar, Colo.

Charles Ray Stane, 56, was arrested in Lamar at about 1 p.m. Friday afternoon on a charge of first-degree murder — the charge stemming from a 1988 incident in which a Pagosa Springs woman was found dead in a hot springs pool.

On Saturday, Oct. 15, 1988, a group of tourists from Georgia discovered a body floating in a shallow, natural hot springs pool located near what is now Hot Springs Boulevard, across the street from where the U.S. Post Office is now located, said Det. Scott Maxwell of the Pagosa Springs Police Department.

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

Maxwell 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.

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

The 1988 investigation into the incident quickly centered on a person of interest after completion of more than 80 interviews within the first week of the incident, Don Volger, former police chief, said at the time, but no arrest was ever made.

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

“This case, it’s never been forgotten,” said Maxwell.

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 a meeting last summer with regional Colorado Bureau of Investigation staff that the case took a significant step forward.

Maxwell said he and former evidence technician Norm Frazier met with CBI staff about the case last July and learned about a grant opportunity through the federal government to assist Colorado agencies investigate cold case homicides.

Over 500 cases from around the state were submitted as funding candidates, with the Dexter case one of 75 chosen to receive a grant.

That funding then helped the PSPD with technical assistance, evidence testing, overtime wages and travel reimbursement to more vigorously investigate the case.

Through that investigation, Maxwell said new information 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.

The information was enough to obtain an arrest warrant last Thursday for Stane for first-degree murder. There is no statute of limitations on murder.

Stane was subsequently arrested on Friday afternoon by the Lamar Police Department.

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 other incidents in the Lamar area.

Additionally, the two agencies communicated about Stane in 1992, concerning an incident in the Lamar area, Maxwell said.

Stane was released from the Colorado Department of Corrections in August, after completing a sentence for a 1987 conviction of felony second-degree sexual assault and a 1992 conviction of second-degree kidnapping, explained Sgt. Dave Reid of the LPD. Stane served approximately 19 years of his 22-year sentence before receiving a parole, and is a registered sex offender.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Stane was being held without bond in the Prowers County Jail.

He is expected to be transported to the Archuleta County Detention Center in the near future.

“It was a lot of work done by a lot of people over a lot of years,” Maxwell said.

randi@pagosasun.com

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