AUBURN – A 44-year-old Auburn man was arrested Friday, charged with raping and killing a college student in 1993 in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Steven H. Downs (Androscoggin County Jail photo) Androscoggin County Jail

Maine State Police arrested Steven H. Downs in connection with the killing of 20-year-old Sophie Sergie in April 1993 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Police in Alaska said DNA evidence from a genealogical database helped link Downs to the crime. He was charged with first-degree murder and sexual assault.

Downs, a nurse, was arrested by the Maine State Police Tactical Team late Friday afternoon in the parking lot of the Fireside Inn. Police also searched his home at 132 Hillcrest St. where they obtained a DNA sample, according to a criminal complaint.

“This arrest is the culmination of years of effort and tenacious attention by the department to solve a horrendous murder,” wrote Amanda Price, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Public Safety. “I and the entire department send our heartfelt sympathy to the family of Sophie Sergie and hope this arrest brings some sense of peace.”

A reporter at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner said of the killing, “The Sophie Sergie homicide case is one of the most notorious cases up here.”


According to a reporter at that news agency, Downs was a student at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks from 1992 to 1996.

Sophie Ann Sergie (Courtesy photo)

Police said that on April 26, 1993, custodial workers at the UAF campus discovered Sophie Sergie’s body in a women’s bathroom in Bartlett Hall, a dormitory in which Downs lived. Sophie, a resident of Pitkas Point and previously a student at UAF, was in town on personal business and visiting friends on campus.

According to a criminal complaint, Sergie had been sexually assaulted, stabbed multiple times and shot in the back of the head before her body was placed in a bathtub.

An investigation was launched by the UAF Campus Police but was soon taken over by Alaska State troopers. Suspect DNA was recovered during the investigation and a unique suspect profile was identified from the DNA; the information was uploaded into “CODIS” — a national Combined DNA Index System.

Police said that last year investigators learned of new DNA technologies that might help lead them to the killer. More testing was done and, police said, results revealed that the likely suspect was Downs, whom they tracked to Auburn.

Police from Alaska came to Auburn on Monday, according to Maine Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland. They worked with Auburn and Maine State Police over the past few days before Downs was arrested without incident outside the Washington Street hotel.

Downs was being held at the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn on Friday night. He is expected to be returned to Alaska to face the charges.

Court records did not show a criminal history for Downs in the Lewiston-Auburn area.

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