Jurors in the sexual assault and murder trial of an Auburn, Maine, man heard his voice for the first time in a courtroom Wednesday as he denied the accusations in the Alaska “cold case” where his DNA was linked to the victim more than two decades after her death.

Steven H. Downs appears in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn in March 2019 for an extradition hearing. He is now on trial in Fairbanks, Alaska, for the 1993 murder of an Alaska woman. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file

Audio recordings of three interviews of Steven H. Downs, 47, by Maine and Alaska police in early 2019 were played for the jury on the 13th day of testimony at his trial in Fairbanks Superior Court.

In those interviews, Downs can be heard repeatedly telling police he didn’t know Sophie Sergie, 20, of Pitkas Point, Alaska, who was killed early on the morning of April 26, 1993.

Downs had been a student at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks at that time and lived in the dorm one floor above where Sergie’s body was found.

Sergie, who had taken a year off from school, had been visiting a friend when she left that friend’s dorm room to smoke a cigarette just hours before she is believed to have been killed.

Investigators said Sergie was shot in the back of the head with a .22-caliber gun and stabbed in the cheek and eye. The medical examiner concluded the cause of death was the bullet fired into her head.


In the police interviews, Downs said he never met her, never knew anyone who lived on the floor of the dormitory where her body was found and never even went onto that floor.

During nearly two hours of interviews with police at his home and, later, at the Auburn, Maine, police station, Downs was heard telling his interrogators, again and again, “there has to be a mistake” and “there’s gotta be a logical explanation” as to why his semen was found in the victim’s vagina.

“It’s not me,” he told police, who insisted repeatedly that the evidence against him was conclusive.

“I never hurt anyone in my life,” he said.

Downs told police he was a “good person” who “always tried to do the right thing.”

At one point Downs told them “people have been sent to the chair for things they never did.”


Downs said he had been with his girlfriend the night Sergie had been killed, but police said they had talked to her and she said he’d only been with her intermittently that night.

He denied having owned a gun during his freshman year while living in the dorm.

A .22-caliber revolver found in the closet of Steven H. Downs of Auburn, Maine, is shown Wednesday at his rape and murder trial in Fairbanks Superior Court in Alaska. Used with permission by Fairbanks Superior Court

But police said his roommate at the time of the crime had told police during an interview years later, as a suspect in the case, that Downs had kept a Harrington and Richardson .22-caliber revolver in their room.

“I never had a gun,” Downs said, adding his former roommate must have misremembered. He said he later acquired guns for hunting and target practice while he was in Alaska.

Police found an H & R .22-caliber revolver in his closet during a search of his house in February 2019.

Downs said he had bought that gun a couple of years earlier through a private sale from a man in Turner. He told police the man’s last name and the name of the road he lived on.


A witness testified Wednesday the last documented owner of that gun dated back to a dealer in Livermore Falls, Maine, in 1981.

Alaska State Trooper Randel McPherron testifies Wednesday in Fairbanks Superior Court at the rape and murder trial of Steven H. Downs of Auburn, Maine. Used with permission by Fairbanks Superior Court

Alaska State Trooper Randel McPherron testified Wednesday he had been working as a “cold case” investigator when he was following up on a tip in the Sergie case.

In 2000, a DNA profile had been built from foreign bodily fluids evidence found inside Sergie. That profile had been loaded into the national DNA database of offenders with no matches.

Police had submitted the crime scene DNA from Sergie’s killing in September 2018 for a new technique of so-called “genetic genealogy” analysis that had recently helped solve a double-murder cold case in Washington state.

In December of that year, Downs’ name came back from the analysis through a random hit after his aunt had submitted her DNA to a genealogy website.

After police learned of his name, McPherron said police went about investigating Downs to see whether his profile fit with the crime.


They learned he was living in the dorm at the time of the crime, one floor above where Sergie’s body was found. And they tracked his movements since 1993 to his home in Auburn.

Hoping to get a sample of Downs’ DNA without his knowledge, he was put under surveillance for weeks, McPherron said. Police even sifted through his garbage, but came up empty.

Police eventually got a warrant to seize his DNA and fingerprints.

On Feb. 14, 2019, Downs was served with the warrant and his fingerprints and DNA were taken at the Auburn police station, where he was also interviewed.

“It will be shown I didn’t have anything to do with this,” he told his interrogators.

Fingerprints from the crime scene were never matched to Downs, McPherron said Wednesday.

But his genetic profile from his DNA sample did match the DNA of the semen found in Sergie, he said.

He was arrested a short time later and extradited to Alaska.

Prosecutors are expected to wrap up their case Thursday.

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