Steven Downs sentenced to 75 years in prison for the 1993 rape and murder of Sophie Sergio at an Alaska college

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Man convicted of rape and murder at University of Alaska Fairbanks dorm who left unsolved for more than two decades he was sentenced to 75 years in prison in Alaska. Steven Downsof Auburn, Maine, declined to address the courtroom before the sentence was just handed down Monday.

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Sophie Sergio

Alaska State Troopers


The killing of a 20-year-old Sophie Sergio in 1993 they stymied investigators until a DNA match using genetic genealogy tracing led them to Downs, who was arrested in 2019 in Maine. Downs was a freshman at UAF in 1993 and lived in the dorm where Sergio was found dead.

The defense argued that any sentence higher than 20 years would be life because of Downs’ health. He weighs more than 400 pounds and has high blood pressure, his attorney said.

Downs, 48, will be eligible for parole after 25 years, the Sun Journal reported reported.

Prosecutors said Downs showed no remorse. Sergie was sexually assaulted, shot in the head and stabbed multiple times, officials said.

Sergie was a former student at UAF, but was not enrolled when she went to live with a friend who lived on campus. She was last seen when she left to smoke a cigarette and her boyfriend suggested she smoke near the exhaust vents in the women’s showers to avoid the cold outside, the court heard.

Maintenance workers found Sergio’s body in a shower tub on the afternoon of April 26, 1993.

Downs did not testify at his trial and was convicted in February.

Alaska cold case
Steven Downs is led into a courtroom for arraignment, Aug. 6, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. An attorney has entered not guilty pleas for Downs, who is accused of sexually assaulting and murdering 20-year-old Sophie Sergio in 1993 on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus.

Mark Thiessen/AP


After Downs was found guilty, Sergio’s brother Alexie said KTUU-TV the case has taken a toll on the family over the years. Their mother died in 2021, after Downs was arrested but before the trial.

“On special occasions, she would just burst into tears for a moment,” Alexie Sergie said. “And she started praying and she started praying… I thought, you know, one day they’re going to find this guy, they’re going to find him. Nobody can hide that long.”

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