Auburn man wants murder, rape charges dropped in Alaska cold case

Published: Nov. 29, 2019 at 2:06 PM EST
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Lawyers for an Auburn man accused of raping and killing a woman at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1993 are asking a judge to dismiss the charges.

In motions filed Monday, lawyers for Steven Downs claim the investigation into the sexual assault and murder of 20-year-old Sophie Sergie was "botched" by police.

Downs was a student at the university at the time of Sergie's murder on April 26, 1993. Her body was found in a bathtub in the same dormitory where Downs lived. Investigators said she had been shot and stabbed.

Down has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Downs was arrested in February after investigators submitted a DNA sample from the crime to a company that uses extracted DNA to perform genetic genealogy testing. The sample matched another sample that had been submitted by a relative of Downs.

Defense lawyers claim that searching the genealogical database amounts to an unconstitutional search and an invasion of Downs' privacy.

Downs' lawyers are asking a judge to not only dismiss the indictment against Downs but to also suppress the DNA evidence that linked him to the murder.

Regarding the DNA found on Sergie's body, defense lawyers said the evidence appears to have been mishandled.

Downs is scheduled to appear in court in Fairbanks on Dec. 18 when a hearing will be held to assess the status of his case, his lawyer said.