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Forensic Examiner corroborates initial autopsy report of Sophie Sergie

Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 4:21 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -The majority of the discussion that took place Wednesday, January 26, 2022, during the trial of Steven Downs consisted of testimony from former Director of the Alaska State Troopers, Barry Wilson, and retired Forensic Pathologist, Norman Thompson.

Thompson was asked to review Sophie Sergie’s initial autopsy report by forensic examiner Michael Propst taken April 28, 1993, at the Alaska State Medical Examiner’s office in Anchorage.

Although Thompson did not perform the autopsy initially, he went through the reasons why it is important to re-review reports, as well as pictures to get an accurate representation of the evidence.

Thompson said, “My consultative report on the death of the decedent Sophie A. Sergie stated January 17th, my recollection is that I was first contacted by Randall McPherron who was an investigator for the Alaska Bureau of Investigation, and he asked me if I could review this case and if I would testify towards it and on it if it went to court. He presented me with some materials for that review and I undertook that review.”

After reviewing several pictures and conducting his own report, Thompson stated the initial autopsy was within the standard practice at the time, was efficient, and was thorough. He explained, “My reports tend to be a little bit longer. I may include a lot more stuff that isn’t relevant, but his report as I read it included the critical details and the critical evidence that I thought were necessary under the conclusion that he reached.”

He was also able to conclude that Sergie had multiple cuts, bruising, and abrasions on her face and abdomen, but that she had subsequently died of a gunshot wound to the head.

The bullet that killed Sergie was later found after an x-ray was performed.

“At the time of the original autopsy, visible in x-rays prior to opening the head, this location was touched and felt to be a lump,” Thompson said. “It was the location of the recovery of the bullet or the ‘slug,’ if you will, from the gunshot wound,”

Alaska State Prosecutor Chris Darnall asked Thomson if the bullet was recovered from the body, and if there was any information on the caliber of the bullet.

“It was described as small caliber,” Thompson said. “Typically when people say a small-caliber bullet they mean something that might be a point 22 or twenty-two caliber. Sometimes a point 25 can be considered small caliber. It is in contrast to something like a 45 caliber, nine millimeter, [or] some other caliber which has a much larger bullet.”

This small caliber gun has been frequently questioned throughout the trial because it was the same caliber that was recovered from Downs’ Auburn home, and one that Downs’ former girlfriend Kate Lee testified earlier this week she and Downs used in 1993 when they visited a gun range.

KTVF/KXDF were granted special permission to use video and audio recordings from this trial from the Alaska Court Systems.

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