The Maine governor has signed an arrest warrant for the extradition of a 26-year-old man in Fairbanks accused of rape and murder. Forty-four-year-old Steven Harris Downs is charged with killing Sophie Sergie of Pitka's Point and killing Sophie at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in April 1993. Downs lawyer James Howaniec says it has never been questioned that his client has traveled to Alaska to face charges.
"The only question was if it would be faster, as it usually is, or if it would happen a little further in the future," Howaniec said.
At the time of Sergie's murder, Downs was an 18-year-old UAF student living in the dormitory at Bartlett Hall, where 20-year-old Sergie was stabbed to death in a bathroom and shot dead. The case was cold until investigators related genetic evidence from the crime last year to a genealogical database and identified Downs as a suspect. Howaniec says Downs, who has been imprisoned in Maine since his indictment in February, has demanded extradition to gain time to settle his affairs and investigate the charges.
"He's taken aback by this charge, and we step back a bit to at least judge what some of the evidence is," Howaniec said.
Howaniec says Downs could challenge the arrest warrant of the Maine governor, and even if so, the extradition proceedings are likely to be completed next month and his client sent to Alaska. The genetic genealogy used to identify Downs was used to identify other murder suspects across the country, including the Golden State killer in California.