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Man enters ‘surprise’ guilty plea in rape case
by Tribune Staff
Feb 12, 2011 | 2109 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Damon Lee Dunagan
Damon Lee Dunagan
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RENO — In what prosecutors are calling “a wonderful surprise,” a 17-time felon has confessed to raping and robbing a Sparks woman last year.

Damon Lee Dunagan, 38, pleaded guilty late Friday to six counts, including two counts of sexual assault and one count of being a habitual criminal, stemming from a March 31, 2010 attack. As a result, Dunagan faces a possible maximum sentence of five consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.

Prosecutor Dan Greco of the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office said he had finished his preparations for a trial and was “kind of shocked” when Public Defender Maizie Pusich told Judge Patrick Flanagan that Dunagan was changing his plea to guilty on all counts.

“There were absolutely no plea bargain offerings,” Greco said of the case against Dunagan, adding that he plans to seek a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Pusich offered no advance notice of a possible guilty plea, according to Greco. On a break in Friday’s proceeding, Pusich said she failed to do so because she “wanted to avoid the TV cameras,” Greco said in a written statement.

According to police reports, Dunagan broke into the home at 2310 Wild Creek Drive in Sparks through an unlocked window a little after 6 a.m. on March 31. There, he found the 42-year-old resident in bed, demanded cash and jewelry and then sexually assaulted her at gunpoint. According to a statement from the district attorney, Dunagan repeatedly made foul, derogatory and denigrating comments toward the victim during the sexual assault.

After the assault, he left with a white pillow case full of the woman’s expensive belongings.

Police described the attack as “brutal” and “emotionless.”

According to Sparks Police Sgt. Greta Woyciehowsky, Dunagan was apprehended after police got a tip from witnesses who said they saw a man wearing dark clothing getting into a dark blue four-door Dodge Dakota parked a short distance away from the victim’s home at about 6:30 a.m. on March 31. These same witnesses told police that the vehicle had Oregon license plates. Dunagan is a longtime Oregon resident.

Two days after the attack, Sparks detectives found a car matching witnesses descriptions. It had been reported stolen out of Oregon. Detectives watched the vehicle for several hours before Dunagan drove it to an Arco Gas Station on Sun Valley Boulevard, where police took him into custody.

Inside the car, detectives found the woman’s pillow case and several identifiable items taken from her home as well as a handgun.

The woman was shown a picture of Dunagan and positively identified him as the man who entered her home, however, she said she had never seen the man before he raped and robbed her.

In addition to sexual assault, burglary and robbery charges, Dunagan was charged with being a habitual criminal. According to Greco, Dunagan did not plead guilty to this charge; rather, evidence will be presented at sentencing and the court will make a determination. Five of the charges from the March 31 attack are subject to enhancements via Nevada’s habitual criminal law. If Dunagan is found to be a habitual criminal, he can be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole or with the possibility of parole after 10 years. Because there are five felony counts subject to the habitual criminal enhancement, the maximum sentence is five back-to-back life terms.

Sentencing is set for March 23.
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