AUBURN – A 44-year-old Auburn man was arrested Friday, charged with raping and killing a college student in 1993 in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Maine State Police arrested Steven H. Downs in connection with the killing of 20-year-old Sophie Sergie in April of 1993 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Police in Alaska said DNA evidence linked Downs to the crime. He was charged with first-degree murder and sex assault.

Downs, a nurse, was arrested by the Maine State Police Tactical Team late Friday afternoon in the parking lot at the Fireside Inn. Police also searched his home at 132 Hillcrest St. where they obtained a DNA sample, according to a criminal complaint.

“This arrest is the culmination of years of effort and tenacious attention by the department to solve a horrendous murder,” wrote Amanda Price, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Public Safety. “I and the entire department send our heartfelt sympathy to the family of Sophie Sergie and hope this arrest brings some sense of peace.”

A reporter at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner said of the killing “The Sophie Sergie homicide case is one of the most notorious cases up here.”

According to a reporter at that news agency, Downs was a student a the University of Alaska at Fairbanks from 1992 to 1996.

Police said On April 26, 1993, custodial workers at the UAF campus discovered Sophie Sergie’s body in a women’s bathroom of the Bartlett Hall, a dormitory in which Downs lived. Sophie, a resident of Pitkas Point and previous student at UAF, was in town on personal business and visiting friends on campus.

According to a criminal complaint, Sergie had been sexually assaulted, stabbed multiple times and shot in the back of the head before her body was placed in a bathtub.

An investigation was launched by the UAF Campus Police, but was soon taken over by the Alaska State Troopers. Suspect DNA was recovered during the investigation and a unique suspect profile was identified from the DNA; the information was uploaded into “CODIS” – a national Combined DNA Index System.

Police said that last year, investigators learned of new DNA technologies that might help lead them to the killer. More testing was done and, police said, results revealed that the likely suspect was Downs, who they tracked to Auburn.

Police from Alaska came to Auburn on Monday, according to Maine Public Safety Spokesman Stephen McCausland. They worked with Auburn and State Police over the past few days before Downs was arrested without incident outside the Washington Street hotel.

Downs was being held at the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn Friday night. He is expected to be returned to Alaska to face the charges.

Court records did not show a criminal history for Downs in the Lewiston-Auburn area.

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.