Fairbanks judge hears motions to suppress evidence in Steven Downs trial

Published: Feb. 1, 2021 at 5:53 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Steven Downs appeared in court for the first time in nearly a year as attorneys appeared before Superior Court Judge Thomas Temple to argue on motions to suppress evidence and dismiss the charges. Downs, who was charged with first degree murder and first degree sexual assault in the 1993 killing of Sophie Sergie, was arrested in 2019 in Maine where he lived.

Downs was a student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1993 when Sergie was found dead in a dorm bathroom. The case had been unsolved for years when Alaska State Trooper cold case investigator Randy McPherron used a genealogy search to compare to DNA found at the crime scene. Investigators identified Downs as the primary suspect and in February of 2019 served him a warrant to collect a DNA sample and fingerprints.

Monday’s proceedings saw Assistant Attorney General Jenna Gruenstein, who is prosecuting the case, questioning McPherron about the warrants they applied for and the initial contacts with Downs in 2019. Much of the day was spent listening to recordings of contact at Downs’ house and a subsequent interview at the Auburn, Maine Police Department.

“We’ve got enough right now to close this case, our prosecutor says we’ve got enough right now based on the evidence we have, but we said, hold on, wait a minute, let’s find the truth, let’s see what happened. Maybe there is some mitigating circumstances here, maybe there is some reasons that this happened that need to be known,” McPherron said during the interview with Downs.

Throughout the interview Downs continued to assert his innocence and insisted that they had made a mistake and had the wrong person.

The hearings will continue through the rest of the week as Judge Temple takes up motions to suppress evidence and to dismiss the case.

Tuesday Downs’ lead defense attorney James Howaniec is expected to begin cross examination of McPherron. Judge Temple may also hear from additional witnesses in the hearing.

We will continue to follow the hearings and provide coverage throughout the week.

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