Closing arguments made in Fairbanks murder trial

Steven Downs, left, and Sophie Sergie.
Steven Downs, left, and Sophie Sergie.(Julie Swisher)
Published: Feb. 7, 2022 at 6:54 PM AKST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Closing arguments in the murder trial of Steven Downs took place in Fairbanks on Monday. Downs is charged with murder and sexual assault in the death of 20-year-old Sophie Sergie in 1993 on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus.

This 29-year-old case was thought to have gone cold when Alaska state troopers thought to use genetic genealogy, which linked the Maine resident to the death.

The prosecutor’s closing arguments on Monday detailed gruesome elements of the alleged rape and alleged intentional killing of Sergie. In the state of Alaska there is no requirement that murder must be premeditated, but it does have to be intentional and, according to the prosecution, Sergie’s death was intentional beyond a reasonable doubt.

Due to the execution style of the shooting and stab wounds found on her face, prosecutors claim there is no way this could have been an accidental killing. This, coupled with the fact Downs’ DNA was the only DNA found at the scene, means no one else could have killed Sergie, they said.

The defense, however, found the state’s claims speculative, arguing the validity of genetic genealogy and saying that that the DNA samples being used could potentially come from third cousins and therefore isn’t strong enough. To them, there is enough reasonable doubt present in an investigation the defense claims was “botched” from the beginning.

After Sergie’s death, students on the campus became scared and left, so many potential witnesses were never questioned, the defense argued. Now nearly 30 years later, the defense argues the character witnesses may have a skewed memory.

“This is part of our concern in this case,” said James Howaniec, defense attorney for Downs. “The state is making square pegs fit into round holes because they have a theory about what happened.”

These arguments are what the jury is debating currently. Downs was extradited from Maine for the trial.

Copyright 2022 KTUU. All rights reserved.