LEWISTON — Steven H. Downs, the 44-year-old Auburn man charged with raping and killing a woman in 1993 in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Tuesday fought his extradition to that state, saying he “categorically denies any involvement.”

Steven Downs, 44, of Auburn, right, stands for his initial appearance in 8th District Court in Lewiston on Feb. 19. 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. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

Lewiston lawyer James Howaniec filed a petition in 8th District court shortly before noon Tuesday contesting Downs’ extradition to Alaska.

In that petition, Howaniec wrote that “virtually no information has been provided” to Downs in support of Maine’s charge of fugitive from justice and that the documents filed by the state in support of that charge don’t comply with Maine law.

The petition says Downs hasn’t received any charging document from Alaska on charges of murder and rape.

“The defendant has been incarcerated at the Androscoggin County Jail and has absolutely no information about the nature of the charges against him out of Alaska, other than through hearsay that has been relayed to him from local media stories,” according to the petition.

He was arrested in Auburn two weeks ago by state and local police on a fugitive-from-justice warrant.


Downs is charged in the killing of 20-year-old Sophie Sergie in April 1993 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Downs was reportedly a student there from 1992 to 1996.

Police in Alaska said DNA evidence from a genealogical database helped link Downs to the crime. On Feb. 15, police searched the 132 Hillcrest St., Auburn, home of Downs, a registered nurse, where they obtained a DNA sample.

Downs’ DNA was recovered during the investigation and uploaded into the Combined DNA Index System known as CODIS.

Police said investigators learned last year 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, tracked through a relative, was Downs.

At his initial court appearance last week, Downs said through a lawyer that he thought  “there must be some mistake.”

A judge ordered Downs held without bail pending a March hearing.


In the petition filed Tuesday, “Defendant categorically denies any involvement in the homicide of Sophie Sergie. This was apparently a rage killing, involving allegations of rape, stabbing and a gunshot to the head. Defendant has absolutely no history of violence.”

Downs is “intelligent and well-educated” with several college degrees, the petition says. He should be released from custody, it says. “There are no grounds justifying the continued restraint.”

Prosecutors at Downs’ initial court appearance argued that he posed a flight risk, having lived out of state.

Howaniec’s petition argues that Downs poses no flight risk and that he is “anxious to defend himself against any charges … originating out of the state of Alaska.”

Alaska does not have a life sentence, but allows for sentencing of up to 99 years.

Because Downs hasn’t worked this year, a court-appointed attorney was provided for him.


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