Man accused in Alaska cold case murder faces second bail hearing

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska Steven Downs, accused of the rape and murder of Sophie Sergie, in 1993, appeared in court this morning for his second bail hearing since being extradited to Alaska.

Steven Downs, accused of the rape and murder of Sophie Sergie, in 1993, appeared in court this morning, August 16th, 2019, for his second bail hearing since being extradited to Alaska. (John Dougherty/KTVF)

Superior Court Judge Earl Peterson left in place the $500,000 appearance bond, with a 10% posting being required, and the $500,000 performance bond that was set during his bailing hearing in Anchorage on August 6th, 2019.

A performance bond is designed to ensure that a defendant will follow any conditions if they are released. An appearance bond is designed to ensure that a defendant will not attempt to flee justice.

For Downs to be released he will be required to pay $550,000. Peterson said because of the violent and dehumanizing nature of the crimes and because of the DNA evidence, the refuted alibi that Downs gave, and the potential for flight risk, this a fair amount for bail.

Judge Peterson said if Downs is released he will be required to live in Alaska and stay in his residence. He is also forbidden from having any contact with the Sergie family or from going onto the UAF campus.

Downs was joined by defense attorneys, James Howaniec and Frank Spaulding at the hearing. They talked about Downs’ history and the fact that he has almost no criminal history. After graduating college in 1996 he went on to get a master's in business and became a registered nurse where he has worked most of his life. Howaniec asked the judge to take these factors into consideration when setting bail.

Sophie Sergie's mother and brother joined the hearing on the phone. Her brother was given the chance to speak and emphasized that, "DNA cannot lie".

The judge then gave the state a chance for bail arguments. They argued for the bail to remain set at $500,000, along with the additional $500,000 performance bond. The state argued that there is evidence beyond the DNA. According to the state Downs' roommate said he had a .22 caliber H&R handgun at the time of the murder. The state found the same type of gun in Maine when they searched his house. When they did a ballistics test it was not clear whether it fired the bullet they found in Sergie’s body, but they said they could not rule it out.

They also said that Downs denied ever having met Sergie, which they claim cannot be true because of his DNA being on the body. And that the alibi that he gave was refuted.

The state also claimed that his record as a nurse was not as great as the defense is claiming. Downs had disciplinary action taken against him for inappropriate conduct in a workplace setting.

Downs' attorney spoke with us previously and said that the action was a result of a dispute between employees and that many other coworkers had come to his defense.

Sergie was found lying in a bathtub with multiple stab wounds and a gunshot wound to the back of the head, she had also allegedly been raped during the attack. For many years the case was considered a cold case but Downs was recently tied to the murder after they matched the unknown DNA found on Sergie's body to DNA from Downs' aunt who used an ancestry website.

According to attorneys for the defense, it is unlikely that bond will be posted.

Downs' next scheduled court date will be on September 19th.

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