The suspect in an Alaska cold case is one step closer to facing trial. On Tuesday, 44-year-old Steven Downs was arraigned in Anchorage on first-degree murder and sexual assault charges. 

Downs is accused of sexually assaulting and killing Sophie Sergie at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in April 1993. He was arrested in Maine in February.

During his court appearance Tuesday, Downs pleaded not guilty.

The case had gone cold for a quarter of a century, until new DNA evidence was discovered through modern-day technology.

KTVA previously reported:

In a charging document against Downs, prosecutors said Sergie was found in a bathtub on the second floor. She had multiple stab wounds to her face but an autopsy determined it was a close-range gunshot to the back of the head that killed her. The medical examiner concluded Sergie had been alive when she suffered the stab wounds.

Downs had no previous arrests and his DNA had never been uploaded to national criminal databases. However, after the arrest of the suspected Golden State Killer in California based on commercially available DNA databases, troopers submitted DNA from Sergie’s case to Parabon Nanalabs, the same facility used in that case.

Its report showed a hit on one of Downs' relatives. [...] A search warrant was executed to search Down’s home in Maine and to get a sample of his DNA. The Maine State Crime lab analyzed Downs' DNA profile and confirmed a match found from Sergie’s vaginal swabs after her death.


Sergie's mother attended Tuesday's arraignment by telephone, according to a release from the Department of Law. 

Superior Court Judge Andrew Peterson granted the state's request for a $1 million cash bail. 

Downs' next appearance will be Aug. 14 in Fairbanks.

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