January 16, 2020
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Judge: Auburn man’s right to speedy trial wasn’t violated in Alaska cold case killing

Mark Thiessen | AP
Mark Thiessen | AP
Steven Downs leaves a courtroom following his arraignment in Anchorage, Alaska, in this Aug. 6, 2019, file photo.

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.

The right of an Auburn man accused of raping and killing an Alaska woman in 1993 to a speedy trial was not violated by delays in transporting him from Maine to Alaska, a judge ruled Tuesday.

An attorney for Steven Downs, 45, said it took 82 days to transport him to Alaska, making it impossible for Downs to be tried within 120 days, Fairbanks television station KTVF reported.

Downs is charged with first-degree murder and sexual assault in the 1993 death of 20-year-old Sophie Sergie. She was found dead in a bathtub in a University of Alaska at Fairbanks dormitory. She had been shot and stabbed.

Downs was arrested in Maine in February 2019.

Defense attorney James Howaniec at a hearing said Downs’ right to a speedy trial had been violated.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Temple on Tuesday heard testimony regarding the delay and agreed with state prosecutors that the rule was not violated because of extenuating circumstances.

U.S. Marshal John Lajeunesse testified that there were at least two mechanical issues with the aircraft used to transport Downs to Alaska that caused a delay. Also, Lajeunesse said, a building where Downs was housed was under a medical quarantine on the day that Downs was supposed to be transported.

Howaniec in a statement said he was not troubled by the judge’s decision.

“We are happy that we’ll be moving forward on our motions to dismiss and suppress evidence in April,” he said.

Downs was a university student at the time of the killing and lived at the dorm where Sergie’s body was found, according to Alaska State Troopers. Downs attended the university from 1992 to 1996, moved to Arizona and later moved to Maine, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

DNA genetic genealogy testing led to Downs, Alaska State Troopers said last year after his arrest in Maine.

 



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