June 03, 2020
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Janet Mills agrees to send Maine man accused in cold-case killing to Alaska for trial

Russ Dillingham | Sun Journal via AP
Russ Dillingham | Sun Journal via AP
Steven Downs, right, leaves the courtroom with his attorney, James Howaniec, after bail was denied at Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn, March 20, 2019.

Gov. Janet Mills on Wednesday signed a warrant to allow the extradition of an Auburn nurse to Alaska, where he faces charges that he raped and killed a young woman in the early 1990s.

The Sun Journal reports that a Lewiston judge has given Steven Downs, 44, a week to decide whether to challenge Mills’ warrant.

His attorney, James Howaniec of Lewiston, told the judge that Downs will likely waive his right to fight extradition to Alaska, where he faces murder and first-degree sexual assault charges, but will take the next week to reach a decision, according to the Sun Journal.

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

If he waives extradition, Alaskan authorities will have 30 days to retrieve Downs from the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn, where he has been held since his arrest in February, the Sun Journal reports.

Downs is accused of sexually assaulting, stabbing and shooting 20-year-old Sophie Sergie in April 1993 before leaving her body in a dormitory bathtub at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, where Downs was a student from 1993 to 1996, according to prosecutors.

Sergie, an aspiring marine biologist, was a student at the university but left to save money, according to the Washington Post. Sergie was visiting a friend at the university the night of her death.

Howaniec told a judge in March that Downs has no “history of violence” and that his client was with another woman on the night Sergie was killed. Downs has “ 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 February, 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.

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

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 noted 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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