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Steven Downs sentenced to 75 years in prison for 1993 rape and murder of Sophie Sergie at Alaska college dorm

DNA leads to arrest in 1993 murder
New DNA technique leads to arrest in 1993 Alaska murder 01:42

A man convicted in a rape and murder at a University of Alaska Fairbanks dormitory that went unsolved for more than two decades was sentenced to 75 years in prison in Alaska. Steven Downs, of Auburn, Maine, declined to address the courtroom before the just imposed the sentence Monday.

Sophie Sergie Alaska State Troopers

The killing of 20-year-old Sophie Sergie in 1993 stymied investigators until a DNA match using genetic genealogy tracing led them to Downs, who was arrested in 2019 in Maine. Downs was a UAF freshman in 1993 and lived in the dorm where Sergie was found dead.

The defense contended any sentence greater than 20 years would be a life sentence because of Downs' health. He exceeds 400 pounds and has high blood pressure, his attorney said.

Downs, 48, will be eligible for discretionary parole after 25 years, the Sun Journal newspaper reported.

Prosecutors said Downs showed no remorse. Sergie was sexually assaulted, shot in the head and stabbed multiple times, officials said.

Sergie was a former UAF student but was not enrolled when she went to stay with a friend who lived in the dorm. She was last seen when she left to smoke a cigarette and her friend suggested she smoke near exhaust vents in the women's shower room to avoid the cold outside, the court papers said.

Janitors found Sergie's body in a bathtub in the shower room on the afternoon of April 26, 1993.

Downs didn't testify in his trial and he was convicted in February.

Alaska Cold Case
Steven Downs is led into a courtroom for arraignment, Aug. 6, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. An attorney entered not-guilty pleas for Downs, who is charged in the 1993 sexual assault and murder of 20-year-old Sophie Sergie on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. Mark Thiessen / AP

After Downs was found guilty, Sergie's brother, Alexie, told KTUU-TV the case had taken a toll on the family over the years. Their mother passed away in 2021, after Downs had been arrested but before the trial.

"On special occasions, she'd just burst out crying for a little bit," said Alexie Sergie. "And she'd start a prayer and start praying. ... I said to myself, you know, one of these days they'll find the guy, they will find him. Nobody can hide for so long."

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