Steven H. Downs (now 46) faces two felony counts for Sophie’s murder. According to the authorities, Sophie was shot in the back of her head with a .22-caliber gun. Police found such a caliber gun in Downs’ dorm room. I have not read anywhere yet that Downs’ gun has been established as the murder weapon. It is the same type though.
Sophie had also been stabbed in both eyes. What instrument was used to inflict this horrific violence isn’t clear. Also not clear yet, what kind of blunt instrument was used to hit her on her head.
When a janitor found her, Sophie was gagged with some sort of ligature (no details as of yet) and she had also been shocked with a stun gun.
All in all, an overkill on violence that usually indicates a very personal attack on the victim.
What ties Downs to Sophie’s murder is DNA. “Downs semen was found in the victim’s vagina” and that “was traced to Downs through a genetic mark on his mother’s side of his family.”
Sophie Sergie was murdered in the time that Downs himself was a student at Alaska State University. His room was one floor above the bathroom where Sophie was found. Downs, at the time of Sophie’s murder eighteen years old, claims that he has an alibi for the evening that Sophie was killed. He claims that he was with his then-girlfriend who had a dorm room one floor above his. However, the then-girlfriend told the authorities that she had a party in her room. Downs was there “intermittently.”
Downs is represented by James Howaniec. Howaniec filed several motions concerning:
- Alaska State Trooper Randel McPherron’s interview with Downs
- the gun found during the search of Downs’ home
- Downs’ DNA from the saliva swab
In total, nine motions are filed and these hearings may take this whole week. All was scheduled for April 2020 but where postponed due to the pandemic.
On April 26, 1993, around 2pm, Sophie Sergie (20) was found dead by a janitor. Her body was in a bathtub in the second floor women’s restroom of Bartlett Hall, University of Alaska. She was raped and killed. The cause of death: a gunshot wound. The murder weapon was never found. Forensic tests revealed that her body had sat in the bathtub for up to 13 hours before she was found.
Sophie studied marine biology. She was not attending classes during the spring semester when she died. She led a quiet life, no risk behaviour. She had decided to take a year off from university and worked as a teacher’s assistant at the Pitkas Point School.
She flew to Fairbanks for a dental appointment and was supposed to fly back home to Pitkas Point afterwards. However, she decided to stay over in the Bartlett Hall dorm room of one of her best friends from back home, Shirley Wasuli.
To be continued.