The defense for a Maine man arrested in connection to the 1993 killing of Sophie Sergie is asking the court to dismiss the charges.
Steven Harris Downs, of Auburn, Maine, was taken into custody and charged with first-degree murder and first-degree sexual assault in February for the killing of Sergie, who was found dead in Bartlett Hall at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The motion to dismiss, filed electronically to the Fairbanks courthouse and provided to the Daily News-Miner by Downs attorney Frank Spaulding, reads, “It is impossible for Mr. Downs to receive a fair trial in the above matter, in violation of his rights to due process under the United States and Alaska constitutions.”
The motion cited contamination of the crime scene, loss of evidence over time, “illegal and unconstitutional searches and seizures of Mr. Downs and his premises” and missing pieces of discovery material. It details investigation into other suspects and states that the defense has confirmed that a gun proposed to be the murder weapon was actually purchased by Downs in Maine in 2016.
Sergie, 20, studied marine biology at UAF but was not a student when she died. She had traveled from her home in Pitkas Point, a village in southwest Alaska, to stay with a friend at the university prior to an orthodontic appointment she was supposed to have on April 26. She had flown to Fairbanks two days beforehand, met with friends and was eventually dropped off at Bartlett Hall.
She was last seen alive around midnight on Monday, April 26, 1993, when she left the room she was staying in to smoke. Her body was found in the Bartlett Hall bathroom by janitors on the day of her appointment.
The Sergie homicide had long been considered a cold case.
Downs was arrested when technology that compares DNA collected at crime scenes to submissions in public genealogical databases found a match between his aunt and DNA discovered in the Sergie case.
Downs’ defense unsuccessfully fought his extradition to Alaska. Downs was arraigned in Fairbanks in August, and his bail was set at $500,000 cash performance bond and $500,000 cash appearance bond, as well as electronic monitoring. He has pleaded not guilty.
The defense has filed three additional motions: a motion to dismiss the indictment; a motion to dismiss third-party evidence, including the information from the genealogical website; and a motion to suppress “all evidence stemming from any violation of the constitutions of the United States, Alaska, and Maine, and the laws of the same,” which includes evidence obtained from search warrants and surveillance.
Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter at: twitter.com/FDNMlocal