A relatively new type of genetic testing was credited Friday with helping authorities in Alaska solve a case in which a 20-year-old woman was found brutally murdered in the bathroom of a university dorm room more than 25 years ago.
On Friday, a 44-year-old man working as a nurse across the country in Auburn, Maine, was arrested in connection with the 1993 cold case killing of Sophie Sergie, who was found to have been sexually assaulted, stabbed multiple times and shot in her head, according to Alaska State Troopers.
The suspect, identified as Steven Downs, was 18 at the time of the slaying. He is charged with sexual assault and murder in the death of Sergie and is expected to be extradited to Alaska. No motive was given for the killing and it was unclear if Downs and Sergie knew each other prior to her death.
“For more than 20 years, AST continued to receive info about Sophie’s murder,” said Col. Barry Wilson, director of the Alaska State Troopers. “Each tip generated a response by members of the cold case unit hoping to break the case.”
Sergie was found dead April 26, 1993, in the dorm room on the campus of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. She had been visiting friends while in town for an appointment, KTUU-TV of Anchorage reported.
Downs was a student who lived in the dorm, authorities said. In 2018, investigators submitted DNA from the crime scene to a Virginia-based lab to develop a likely suspect using genetic genealogy.
The testing led police to Downs.
“Through their dogged persistence, advances in tech and spirit of cooperation exhibited by other agencies that touched this case,” Wilson said, “justice for Sophie is finally within reach.”