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Auburn Man Accused Of Killing Alaska Woman 26 Years Ago Pleads Not Guilty

Mark Thiessen
Steven Downs leaves a courtroom following his arraignment Tuesday in Anchorage, Alaska.

A Maine man has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault and murder charges in the death of a woman at the University of Alaska Fairbanks 26 years ago.

Steven Downs made his first Alaska court appearance Tuesday. He was arrested in February in Maine but had contested extradition.

Maine-based defense lawyer James Howaniec appeared telephonically and entered the not guilty pleas on Downs’ behalf. Downs, wearing yellow prison garb, appeared in the courtroom for the arraignment.

Judge Andrew Peterson set bail at $1 million. The next hearing will be Aug. 14 in Fairbanks.

Downs is charged in the 1993 sexual assault and killing of 20-year-old Sophie Sergie on the Fairbanks campus, where he was then a student.

Alaska authorities say DNA linked him to the crime.

If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.