Alaska troopers announce cold-case murder arrest

Alaska troopers announce cold-case murder arrest

Woman was found dead in University of Alaska Fairbanks bathtub in 1993.

ANCHORAGE — A suspect has been arrested in Maine in connection with the sexual assault and murder of a 20-year-old woman whose body was found in a dorm bathtub at the University of Alaska Fairbanks nearly 26 years ago, Alaska State Troopers said Friday.

Steven Downs of Auburn, Maine, was arrested in Auburn on Friday on charges of first-degree murder and sexual assault in the April 1993 death of Sophie Sergie of Pitkas Point, troopers said.

New DNA technology led to Downs, according to troopers. The technology, called genetic genealogy testing, was also used to make an arrest last year in the Golden State Killer case in California. Former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo faces 13 rape-related charges and 13 murder counts stemming from crimes in the 1970s and 1980s across six counties in the state.

Encouraged by the new investigative method, the Alaska Troopers’ Cold Case Unit (CCU) submitted the unknown DNA profile from Sophie’s case in July of 2018 to Parabon Nanolabs, a Virginia-based company which utilizes extracted DNA to perform the genetic genealogy testing.

Downs, 44, was a UAF student at the time of the killing and lived at the dorm where Sergie’s body was found, troopers said.

Sergie was a former UAF student, but she was not enrolled when she went to stay with a friend at the UAF dorm shortly before her death, according to charging documents. She was last seen alive when she left to smoke a cigarette and her friend suggested she smoke near exhaust vents in the women’s tub room to avoid the cold outside, the court papers said.

Janitors found Sergie’s body in a tub in a shower room at the dorm the afternoon of April 26, 1993. Charging documents say she was sexually assaulted, shot in the back of the head and stabbed numerous times.

Biological evidence was collected, but at the time, DNA technology was not in used in Alaska, according to the court papers. Investigators later developed a DNA profile to compare the DNA of possible suspects over the years, to no avail.

Downs will be extradited to Alaska, troopers said. Online court files do not list an attorney for Downs.


• This is an Associated Press report.


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