Arrest made in 24-year-old cold case

New analysis of DNA evidence links trucker to Pagosa Springs murder

Longtime Pagosa Springs resident Norm Vance and his son, Ian, soak in the Hippie Dip in 1988, the same year a woman’s body was found floating facedown in the hot-water pool. After 24 years, police arrested a man they suspect murdered the woman. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Norm Vance

Longtime Pagosa Springs resident Norm Vance and his son, Ian, soak in the Hippie Dip in 1988, the same year a woman’s body was found floating facedown in the hot-water pool. After 24 years, police arrested a man they suspect murdered the woman.

A truck driver from Lamar has been arrested in connection with a 24-year-old murder case in Pagosa Springs.

Charles “Ray” Stane, 56, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Vickie Calline Dexter, 40, of Durango, who was found dead 24 years ago floating facedown in a hot-water pool known as the Hippie Dip in downtown Pagosa.

Police identified Stane as a suspect days after the murder, but they didn’t have enough physical evidence to make an arrest, Don Volger, former chief of the Pagosa Springs Police Department, said last week during an interview.

Advances in forensic testing allowed authorities to resubmit DNA evidence late last year, which produced a near 100 percent match to Stane, according to an arrest affidavit filed in 6th Judicial District Court.

Volger called it the biggest case his department ever worked during his career as chief, from 1984 to 2009.

“We put more time and effort into that one case than we put into any that I remember,” he said.

Stane’s arrest for first-degree murder is not his first run-in with the law:

In 1982, Stane confessed to a kidnapping and sexual assault in Southeast Colorado, but he never was charged because investigators believed another man committed the crime.

In 1987, Stane was arrested for felony sexual assault for pulling out a large clump of a woman’s hair. The same year, he was named a suspect in an attempted double homicide of a woman and her 9-year-old daughter, who were sexually assaulted and shot in Ector County, Texas. The two survived, and he remains a suspect in the unsolved case.

In 1992, Stane was convicted of felony kidnapping and sexual assault in Lamar. He served 19 years of a 26-year prison sentence.

Stane was living as a free man working as a long-haul truck driver earlier this year in Lamar. He was arrested March 23 in connection with the Pagosa Springs cold case.

He is a registered sex offender and had been reporting to local authorities as required, according to the arrest affidavit.

The Pagosa murder occurred early Oct. 15, 1988.

Three women – Dexter, Crystal Quintana and Susan Doyle – were enjoying an evening out at the bars when they met some truck drivers who had been hauling cattle in the area, according to the arrest affidavit, which draws from interviews from Quintana and Doyle days after Dexter’s body was found.

The truckers bought the women drinks, and they danced and played pool.

The women described “Ray” as about 6 feet 2 inches tall, with a “big beer belly.” He told them he was 37 years old, though he would have been 32 at the time.

Dexter, who was wearing a blue dress, apparently poked fun at Ray throughout the night. She repeatedly called him “fat boy,” according to Stane’s companions, who were interviewed in the days after the slaying.

At one point, Stane became embarrassed and left the bar.

Dexter’s friends told police she was known to tell people that she had tested positive for AIDS, although there is no information that she actually had AIDS or made the statement that night.

Later in the evening, “Ray” approached Dexter at the bar and began talking to her. They eventually moved to a booth, and they were seen leaving together about 1:45 a.m. Oct. 15, 1988.

At about 9:45 a.m. Oct. 15, 1988, Dexter’s nude body was found floating in the Hippie Dip.

Longtime Pagosa resident Norm Vance said the Hippie Dip was a natural hot-water spring on private property that was used freely by residents.

“Certainly locals used it, and people came in from outside looking for it,” he said. “It was probably Pagosa’s No. 1 tourist attraction back then, even though most people didn’t know that.”

He recalled that once, three Budweiser girls showed up and refused to go in the dirty water with their company-issued swimming suits. But they did go in, Vance said, and somehow carpenters and contractors from across the town found out and showed up.

“It was an amazing place for a long time.” Vance said. “People were naked there all the time.”

The property owners filled in the Hippie Dip within a day or two of the murder, he said.

Dexter had been severely beaten about the face and head. Her body had numerous linear scratches consistent with being dragged. A pathologist determined the scratch marks occurred postmortem. Large clumps of her hair had been pulled from her head.

The cause of death was determined to be strangulation.

Numerous DNA swabs were collected from the body and preserved as evidence.

Police interviewed Stane on Oct. 19, 1988 – four days after the murder.

He told them Dexter was “rubbing all over” him, and described her as “a tramp, in my eyes,” according to the arrest affidavit.

He told police: “She wanted to get a bottle of champagne and go to the hot pool and, uh, I got to laughing about it and I was telling my buddies about it, and she got to teasing me. Her calling me, she said, ‘Don’t make me look bad, fat boy,’ or something, or don’t tell everybody, and then I just got up and went next door to the other bar and sat over there and drank.”

He denied going anywhere with Dexter. He apparently made some contradictory statements to police, according to the arrest affidavit.

An investigator asked Stane how he felt about polygraph tests, and he said he did not like them and refused to take one.

An investigator asked Stane if he would admit to killing Dexter if he, in fact, did, and he replied: “Probably not, you know. I mean, I’m not dumb. I ain’t going to say, ‘Well, I done it, slap my hand or put me in the electric chair or whatever.’”

Stane has refused to speak to police since his arrest earlier this year, said Scott Maxwell, with the Pagosa Springs Police Department, who wrote the arrest affidavit.

On April 14, 1989, Dexter’s purse was found in a snowbank along U.S. Highway 160, about 1½ miles west of the Hippie Dip. A pair of size 38 Fruit of the Loom men’s briefs was found about 40 feet from her purse.

“This brand and size of underwear exactly match the underwear given to police by Ray on Oct. 19, 1988,” the affidavit says. The underwear was submitted to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for DNA analysis in April 1989 and again in 2002, but no viable evidence was returned.

Pagosa Springs resident Vernon Wood told police on March 12, 1989, that a truck driver from the Eastern Slope admitted to killing Dexter. The truck driver said, “I killed that (expletive) because after I (expletive) her, she told me she had AIDS,” Wood told police, according to the affidavit.

About a month later, Wood denied having made the statement to police.

Late last year, the Pagosa Springs Police Department resubmitted 13 pieces of evidence to the CBI for DNA testing. A test tube that contained a rectal swab taken from Dexter tested positive with Stane’s DNA, according to the affidavit.

Stane is set to be arraigned Tuesday in District Court in Pagosa.

shane@durangoherald.com