September 18, 2019
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Maine man accused of killing Alaska woman in 1993 denied bail

Russ Dillingham | Sun Journal via AP
Russ Dillingham | Sun Journal via AP
Steven Downs appears at Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn on Wednesday during his extradition hearing. Downs has been charged by Alaska authorities with the 1993 sexual assault and murder of 20-year-old Sophie Sergie at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

A judge on Wednesday denied bail for an Auburn nurse accused of raping and killing a young woman in Alaska almost 26 years ago.

Steven Downs’ lawyer, James Howaniec of Lewiston, told an Androscoggin County Superior Court judge that his client should be allowed bail while he awaits extradition to Alaska, according to the Sun Journal.

But Assistant District Attorney Patricia Reynolds Regan said 44-year-old Downs should be denied bail and remain in custody until he can be extradited, the Sun Journal reports.

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

Howaniec said Downs has no “history of violence” and that his client was with another woman on the night in April 1993 when 20-year-old Sophie Sergie, an aspiring marine biologist and former student, was sexually assaulted, stabbed and shot before her body was left in a dormitory bathtub at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, where Downs was a student from 1993 to 1996.

Howaniec told the judge that the brutal killing was “completely alien” to Downs’ character. Downs has previously “ categorically” denied involvement in the killing.

DNA evidence was recovered from the crime scene, but DNA processing technology wouldn’t be introduced in Alaska until seven years later.

Police did not reportedly match the DNA to Downs until last month, after a forensic genealogist discovered similarities to Downs’ aunt’s, which had been collected in a public database used to research family heritage, according to the Washington Post. He was arrested in Auburn on Feb. 15.

[Maine man ‘categorically’ denies involvement in 1993 Alaska homicide]

Howaniec also said Downs has been provided little information about the evidence supporting the charges against him, and only received an indictment detailing the charges Friday, the Sun Journal reports.

Downs, a registered nurse, was issued a warning for unprofessional behavior from the Maine nursing board after the Livermore Falls care facility where he had been working fired him, according to public records.

In a consent agreement with Downs signed in March 2017, the Maine State Board of Nursing notes that the Harris House in Livermore Falls dismissed him the previous year for “a totality of substandard performance,” including unspecific comments that made female co-workers “uncomfortable.”

If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.



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