May 26, 2019
Lewiston-Auburn Latest News | Memorial Day Weekend | Bangor Metro | Sports Betting | Today's Paper

Maine man arrested in Alaska cold case contests extradition

Andree Kehn | Sun Journal via AP
Andree Kehn | Sun Journal via AP
Steven Downs, 44, of Auburn, Maine, right, stands for his initial appearance in 8th District Court in Lewiston, Maine, on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. Downs has been charged with the 1993 rape and murder of 20-year-old Sophie Sergie at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Standing with Downs is Attorney Richard Charest.

LEWISTON, Maine — A Maine man charged with killing a woman 26 years ago in Alaska signaled his intention to contest extradition on Tuesday and said through a lawyer that he is innocent of the charges.

Steven Downs, of Auburn, Maine, made his intentions known in the first court appearance since his Friday arrest. A judge ordered him held without bail pending another hearing scheduled for March 18.

Alaska authorities charged Downs in the 1993 sexual assault and killing of 20-year-old Sophie Sergie, whose body was found in a dorm bathtub at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Downs, now 44, was a student at the time, and Sergie was a former student.

[Alaska State Troopers arrest Auburn man in connection with 1993 murder]

Downs appeared in court in handcuffs and a tan prison outfit during a brief court appearance Tuesday during which he spoke very little. Prosecutors said during the appearance that the Maine state crime lab has indicated genetic material recovered during the processing of Sergie’s body is a match to Downs.

Alaska police zeroed in on Downs after DNA submitted by his aunt on a genealogical website was linked to DNA from the crime scene.

[How Alaska police captured a Maine man suspected in a 25-year-old cold case]

Richard Charest, an attorney who represented Downs on Tuesday, said Downs is a registered nurse who is not currently working. Charest made the case that Downs has deep ties in the Lewiston-Auburn area and isn’t a flight risk, and could therefore be allowed bail, but the judge shot down the idea because of the severity of the charges against Downs.

Charest called the charges “a very old allegation” and said Downs “thinks there must be some kind of mistake.” He said Downs will be represented by attorney Jim Howaniec of Lewiston in the future.

Downs is also charged with being a fugitive from justice.

Prosecutors said it’s possible Downs’ opposition to extradition could be resolved at the March 18 court appearance. Prosecutor Andrew Matulis said it depends in part on how quickly court documents arrive from Alaska.

Alaska law allows for sentencing of up to 99 years.

 



Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

You may also like