Alaska judge allows evidence about alternative suspects

LEWISTON, Maine (AP) — A Maine man charged in a young woman’s killing 28 years ago at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks will be allowed to present evidence about three alternative suspects at his trial next month.

Steven Downs, 47, of Auburn, was charged with sexual assault and murder, and extradited to Alaska, after DNA his aunt submitted to a genealogy website matched DNA from the crime scene.

The trial is due to start on Jan. 3.

Downs lived in the dorm where the body of Sophie Sergie, 20, of Pitkas Point, Alaska, was discovered in 1993. She had been shot in the head with a .22-caliber gun, stabbed in the cheek and eye, struck with a blunt instrument, choked with a ligature, and shocked with a stun gun.

The Sun Journal newspaper reported that the judge is allowing the defense to present evidence against three other men in an effort to raise reasonable doubt about Downs’ guilt.

The three were Downs’ roommate, who was employed by the school as a security guard and was fired for possession of a gun; a student seen leaving the bathroom where the body was found and allegedly owned a gun; and a man whose deceased sister claimed he’d confessed.

Downs’ defense had sought to present evidence against 16 alternative suspects during the trial.