The Sun Journal notes that defendant Steven H. Downs will be allowed to present three alternative suspects in the 1993 rape-murder of Sophie Sergie. In previous posts, I have mentioned other suspects and what I saw as problematic for the defense.
Fairbanks Superior Court Judge Thomas Temple’s order allows these three men to be brought forward. I have added details from the Sun-Journal I didn’t have before and repeat here what I see as potential issues.
I am listing the men here in the paper’s order but don’t attach any degree of potential culpability to it.
- expected to testify in January 2022
- told police Downs had a Harrington and Richardson .22 caliber revolver
- Dazer owned a .40 caliber pistol while at UAF (Univerity of Alaska at Fairbanks) however, this “will not be allowed at trial because it doesn’t show a direct link to the crime, Temple ruled.” Sophie was murdered with a .22 caliber gun.
- There also does not seem to be any evidence that Dazer ever had a .22 caliber pistol while at UAF
- Dazer’s DNA does not match the crime scene
- unsure if he will testify
- identified by a student as someone who left the woman’s bathroom where Sergie was found
- lived, maybe against UAF regulations, with a friend who had a room at the dorm before Sergie’s murder
- disappeared from campus shortly after her body was found
- Thornton’s DNA does not match the crime scene. The defense questioned if his fingerprints were found at the crime scene.
- Does Thornton have an alibi for the night of the crime?
Moto is serving a prison sentence for manslaughter. He has a record of crimes against women.
More important is that Moto’s sister told the authorities many years later, that her brother had confessed to her. He mentioned a knife.
- grey t-shirts are very common so unless it has an application or another distinctive mark, it isn’t groundbreaking
- Moto’s confession mentions a knife but we know from prior posts that several weapons were involved e.g. a stun gun a gun, ligatures, and something that caused blunt force trauma to Sophie’s head.
- Can we tie Moto to the crime scene?
- Was there a connection between Moto, Sergie, or the University?
- “Assistant Attorney General Jenna Gruenstein countered Howaniec’s argument, noting that Moto’s photo was not picked out of a photo lineup by the witness in the bathroom.”
- Moto’s sister passed away so her words cannot be presented as evidence at trial as they cannot be confronted (hearsay) by the defense.
- Does Moto have an alibi for the night of the crime?
- The female student who saw a man wearing a grey t-shirt said that she did not think that man was an Alaskan native. Moto is. She also said that she knew Moto and would have recognized him if it had been Moto. During the picture line-up, she pointed to Thornton.
“If Moto were to be called as a witness, Downs’ attorneys could question him about his relationship with Sergie, where he was the night of her disappearance and what he was doing, as well as whether he told his sister he had killed Sergie, Temple wrote.” Whether he will be called to testify is unclear.
The trial is scheduled for January 3, 2022 and is expected to last three weeks.