Charles Ray Stane, the suspect in a 1988 cold case homicide in Pagosa Springs, entered a plea of not guilty to first-degree murder in District Court Tuesday morning.
At the same hearing, Stane’s trial date was set for March 25, 2013, a five-day trial, and motions and pretrial hearings were set for Feb. 5 and March 19.
Stane, 56, was officially charged in April for the 1988 murder of Vickie Dexter.
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 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, said Det. Scott Maxwell of the Pagosa Springs Police Department.
The body was that of 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.
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 in the first week after the incident, Don Volger, former police chief, said at the time, but no arrest was 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.
The case has been looked at several times in the almost 24 years that have passed 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 occurred.
During 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 on March 22. Stane was subsequently arrested on March 23 by the Lamar Police Department.
There is no statute of limitations on a 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 other incidents in the Lamar area, and later communicated about Stane in 1992 concerning 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 in April, a series of routine motions was dealt with.
One motion granted was a “gag order,” which limits pretrial publicity about the case.
Stane is being held in the Archuleta County Detention Center on a $1 million bond — an amount set at his 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.