Original investigator in Sophie Sergie murder testifies in hearing

Published: Feb. 5, 2021 at 4:52 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Attorneys wrapped up a week of evidentiary hearings in the murder case against Steven Downs. On the final day of hearings regarding motions filed by the defense, defense attorney Jim Howaniac called Jim McCann to the stand to testify on his investigation into the murder.

McCann was the lead investigator for the Alaska State Troopers in Fairbanks when Sergie was found murdered in a bathtub at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. McCann, who according to his testimony has investigated at least 78 murders in the state, said that the Sergie murder was the only one he never got a conviction in and that it haunts him to this day.

Many of the questions from the defense focused on a letter that McCann had apparently written to the FBI at the time of the investigation in which he complained about some of the conditions of the investigation. During his testimony in front of Judge Thomas Temple he said that he had requested additional help from the troopers to help secure the scene and interview students in the dorm that may have had information. McCann said he was denied additional help.

Howaniec also spent some time on transcriptions of interviews that he had conducted with another suspect early in the case named Kenny Moto. Moto was allegedly on campus on the night that Sergie was murdered, and throughout the week of hearings the defense has brought up various mentions of Moto in the case files.

Prosecutor Jenna Gruenstine asked McCann during her time about interviews with Moto. McCann, who in the testimony on Friday said he does not remember Moto told the court that if he’d thought that Moto was in the bathroom on the night of the murder, or if he’d had blood on his clothing when he was contacted less than 24 hours after the murder, Moto would have been questioned far more than he was and most likely would be sitting in a yellow jump suit instead of Downs.

After McCann finished being questioned, the prosecution called Jennifer Foster, a forensic scientist for the Alaska Crime Lab to the stand to begin questioning her about DNA collection. The prosecution was unable to finish their questions before the hearing finished.

The parties to the case were unable to finish litigating the motions and have scheduled additional hearings for mid-March. We will continue our coverage as it proceeds.

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