Steven Downs sentenced to 75 years for 1993 murder of Sophie Sergie in his Alaska college dorm

Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 6:17 AM EDT
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PORTLAND, Maine (WMTW) - An Alaska judge has sentenced Steven Downs, 48, from Auburn, Maine, to a 75-year prison sentenced for the 1993 rape and murder of Sophie Sergie, a three-decade-old cold case finally solved after genetic genealogy connected Downs to DNA evidence at the crime scene.

A jury convicted Downs in February for the violent attack on Sergie inside a women’s bathroom inside Downs’s freshman year dormitory at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks on April 26, 1993.

Downs was 18 at the time, and Sergie was 20.

Trial evidence showed that Sergie was killed by a gunshot wound to the back of her head and also suffered several stab wounds to her face.

Semen with Downs’ DNA was found inside Sergie’s body.

On Monday, Alaska Superior Court Judge Thomas Temple sentenced Downs to 67 years for the murder -- the minimum was 20 years, the maximum was 99 -- plus the mandatory 8 years for the sexual assault, following Alaska statutes that were in effect in 1993.

Temple ordered the sentences be served consecutively.

Downs will receive credit for his time already served -- three-and-half years since his arrest in Maine in early 2019 -- and be eligible for parole after serving one-third of his sentence, or 25 years, under the Alaska parole law in effect in 1993.

Assistant District Attorney Jenna Gruenstein told the court Downs committed the crimes with a “brazenness that is still unfathomable” and said it was “shocking” that “he wasn’t caught earlier.”

Defense Attorney James Howaniec told the court that Downs, who had no prior criminal record, is “not a monster” and his only wish is to serve a sentence that might allow him to be released in time to be able to hug his parents again.

Judge Temple said, ‘Since April of 1993, Miss Sergie hasn’t been able to hug anyone. No one’s been able to hug Miss Sergie. No one will ever hug her again.”

Neither Downs nor any of Sergie’s family members spoke at the hearing.

Downs is appealing his conviction.