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Trial of Steven Downs; what you need to know

Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 6:41 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - It was a case that went cold for more than 25 years until DNA evidence linked Steven Downs of Auburn, Maine to the death of Sophie Sergie, a 20-year old college student from Pitkas Point, Alaska.

Downs was a freshman attending the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1993 and lived one floor above the dormitory bathroom where Sergie’s body was found in a bathtub shot, beaten, and sexually assaulted.

Although Sergie was not attending UAF at the time, police say she was visiting a friend who was a student In the Bartlett Hall dormitories. She was last seen the evening of April 25, 1993, when she went outside to smoke a cigarette, and never returned. Her body was found the following afternoon.

Troopers interviewed students in the dorms and staff at the university but had no leads to her killer.

Fast forward to February, 2018. The Alaska State Troopers cold case investigative unit tried a new DNA matching technique. They found a profile submitted by a woman who was related to Steven Downs. Downs was 18 years old during the Sergie investigation.

Alaska State Troopers announced the arrest of Downs outside of the Fireside Inn and Suites in Auburn, Maine where he was staying. Charging documents show Downs denied knowing Sergie and was quoted at the time saying “If he knew anything he would have been forthright from the jump.”

Downs was extradited to Alaska in August of that year.

Evidentiary hearings for Steven downs began in February of 2021, with Defense Attorney James Hawanic questioning Lead Investigator Randy McPherron.

The first three days of the hearings were spent on a motion to suppress evidence that the defense claimed violated Downs amendment rights.

The prosecution rebutted those claims arguing that any of those errors done in the investigation were done unintentionally.

The Defense filed a motion that the state violated the rules of evidence when they presented testimony to the grand jury.

On the final day of the hearings James McCann, a retired Alaska State Troopers investigator who was the lead for this case, said back in February of 2021 that this was the case that got away from him.

“It still haunts me, I had to leave employment with that one unsolved and that is the only sexual homicide case that I did not solve,” said McCann during the trial.

Now in 2022, 28 years after the death of Sophie Sergie, Downs is now 47 years old and will stand trial once again in front of a jury.

Last month Judge Thomas Temple allowed the defense to suggest three other alternative suspects in their arguments.

Opening arguments are scheduled to start this week.

Previous Steven Downs court trial articles from KTVF are listed below, from most recent February 5, 2021 article to the initial arrest article on February 15, 2019.

February 5, 2021. Original investigator in Sophie Sergie murder testifies in hearing

February 4, 2021. Attorneys for Steven Downs attempt to get indictment dismissed

February 2, 2021. Downs’ attorneys question investigation on the second day of hearings

February 1, 2021. Fairbanks judge hears motions to suppress evidence in Steven Downs trial

April 15, 2020. Alaska student cold case trial slowed by coronavirus

January 14, 2020. Judge denies Steven Downs’ claim that his rights to a speedy trial were violated

November 27, 2019. Defense seeks to have cold case charges tossed in Alaska

October 18, 2019. New cold case website hoping to get public’s help in solving cases

August 16, 2019. Man accused in Alaska cold case murder faces second bail hearing

August 15, 2019. Steven Downs arraigned in Fairbanks; defense attorneys visit crime scene

August 6, 2019. UPDATE: Bail set at 500k for Downs in murder trial

June 24, 2019. Where is Steven Downs

May 16, 2019. Downs’ defense lawyer explains extradition to Alaska

April 18, 2019. Maine Governor signs warrant for Steven Downs Extradition

March 20, 2019. Bail denied to man accused of killing Sophie Sergie

March 9, 2019. Lt. Governor Signs Extradition Request for Steven Downs

February 19, 2019. Accused Killer in Cold Case Fights Extradition

February 19, 2019. Steven Downs, 44, made it known in his first court appearance that he intended to contest his extradition to Alaska

February 16, 2019. UAF Chancellor Releases Statement on Sergie Cold Case Arrest

February 15, 2019. Arrest made in Sergie Cold Case

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