On Friday, Feb 5, the evidence hearings in the 1993 murder of Sophie Sergie continued.
Steven H. Downs’ former girlfriend Katherine deSchweinitz Lee testified through videoconference in court: according to her Steve did not own a gun during the years they dated at Alaska State University (ASU) and they dated for about 4 years.
In 2009, she said that she did not know if Downs had a gun when they dated. That statement was used in 2019 to obtain a search warrant. In court, authorities admitted their mistake. “Lee had actually told police in 2009 that Downs was into weapons, but didn’t have a gun.”
Gun possession is important but so is access to guns. If Downs’ roommate owned a gun then Downs could have taken that gun.
Lee did remember seeing Downs with a gun when they went to a shooting range but said that he did not own it. She did remember the night that Sophie Sergie was murdered.
James McCann, a now retired Alaska state trooper who initially led the investigation in Sophie Sergie’s murder made some interesting points:
1: A woman told police she had seen a man leave the same bathroom where Sophie Sergie was murdered. He wore a grey shirt. Three years after Sophie’s murder, McCann interviewed the man. He did wear a grey shirt but how generic are grey shirts?
The man however, made an interesting comment. He asked McCann if Sophie had been stabbed. That was a detail of the murder that for years had been kept from the public.
McCann did not get a firm answer if from the man whether he was or was not in the dorm that night.
McCann faced cross-examination by Assistant Attorney General Jenna Gruenstein. Why was there no arrest or charge brought against this man? Answer: witnesses can be wrong and he was not convinced this would lead anywhere.
2: McCann explained that the scene had not been well secured. By the time that he arrived others had been inside the bathroom contaminating and disturbing evidence. He was concerned that some evidence might have been destroyed or taken away from the scene. In 1993, he was understaffed and overworked.
What bothers me most
The most interesting details to me, were not discussed this week. Remember what happened to Sophie:
Sophie was hit on her head.
Sophie was raped.
Sophie was gagged with some sort of ligature.
Sophie was shocked with a stun gun.
Sophie was shot in the back of her head with a .22-caliber gun.
Sophie was stabbed in both her eyes.
We do not know in which the order this all this happened. If we knew, it would tell us something about the murderer’s personality. That this person was not afraid to torture and had no issues with cruelty, is obvious.
We have not heard anything about defensive wounds so there is chance that she was hit unconscious and then everything happened to her. But, if all this cruelty happened after she was unconscious and raped, the attacker indulgenced in almost sadistic torture. Why not just one shot? Why the overkill?
If Sophie was conscious and all this was necessary to gradually defeat her, we know that she out up a hell of a fight!
I have not heard anything yet about Downs’ character while at ASU. Was he violent, quick to anger, any reports of cruelty during childhood, did anyone see him with a stun gun, did he read books about torturing, binding people (or animals) with a focus on eyes?
In short, just trying to match the gun found at Downs’ to Sophie’s murder, is not enough. It may not be the murder weapon.
Where did the stun gun come from and what about the ligatures? If preserved they should be examined with the M-Vac for touch DNA especially at the ends where you grab hold to pull tight.
The Friday hearings ended earlier than expected as the defense had to fly back to Maine. The team flew in earlier to defend Downs. The evidence hearings will continue in March. Trial is scheduled for January 3, 2022.
If I find more information about any of the above-mentioned issues before the evidence hearings resume in March, I will write another post.
Rest in peace, Sophie Sergie.