Jennifer Foster, an Alaska Crime Lab supervisor, testified March 10, 2021 by video during the pretrial hearings in the case of Sophie Sergie who was raped-murdered on April 25, 1993.
Steven H. Downs is charged in her sexual assault and murder and appeared in the Alaska Superior Court, Fairbanks. He is represented by defense attorney James Howaniec. Howaniec argued again that the murder and sexual assault charges against his client should be dismissed.
Foster went over police evidence gathering procedures and habits back in the day. She said that “investigators may not have worn gloves, wouldn’t have worn masks, and cigarette smoking was routine during autopsies.” In other words, contamination is a risk as it would be all too easy to spread your DNA while touching, sneezing, etc. It would then take an advanced DNA test to separate biological profiles.
This time, the trauma that Sophie suffered was reported differently or, I didn’t catch it before. In the Sun Journal, it said that Sophie had been “stabbed in the cheek and eye” whereas previously I read about both eyes being stabbed and not the cheek.
The official cause of death was determined to be the bullet that was fired into the back of her head.
Foster went over the original lab reports and notes. She admitted that there was a typo and partially had to speculate what the original lab technicians meant. How many typos exactly and how they might alter the findings, isn’t clear.
Remember, the case is from 1993. Procedure and evidence gathering was different then. We now know a lot more about proper evidence collection and preservation. Decades ago, we needed a petri dish filled with blood for analysis and now a drop will do. Accuracy though is not better the bigger the sample as testing methods back then were not as refined as they are now. Semen found in Sophie’s body was identified by DNA to be Downs’ but some samples with earlier testing (90s) showed no semen, however modern technology later on, did.
I hope that this week we will hear more about the attacker’s profile and if that matches Downs. Remember what worries me most in this case: the overkill. Sophie was hit on her head, raped, gagged with some sort of ligature, shocked with a stun gun, shot in the back of her head with a .22-caliber gun, and stabbed in either both her eyes or an eye and a cheek. Last, what do we know about all the weapons used? Were any ever found and tied to the crime scene?
On March 11, the judge will hear from CeCe Moore, chief genetic genealogist with Parabon NanoLabs.
To be continued. All my posts about the Sophie Sergie case are here.