LEWISTON, Maine - Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed a warrant allowing the extradition of a man who is wanted in Alaska to face charges he sexually assaulted and killed a woman more than two decades ago.
But Steven Downs, 44, will likely challenge the governor’s warrant as he seeks additional time to get his personal and legal affairs in order for his eventual extradition to Alaska for trial, defense attorney James Howaniec said Thursday.
Downs is charged with the assault and murder of 20-year-old Sophie Sergie at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1993, when Downs was a student and Sergie was a former student.
Sergie was sexually assaulted, shot in the head and stabbed multiple times. Her body was found on the morning of April 26, 1993, in a dormitory bathtub.
The case went unsolved for years before DNA evidence led to Downs’ arrest in February. Since then, he’s been held without bail on a fugitive from justice charge.
Downs has denied any involvement in the crime and contends he was with his girlfriend when Sergie was killed, Howaniec said.
"He's completely flabbergasted by these charges. He adamantly denies any involvement in this crime. We want to step back and assess the situation," he said.
The next court date is on May 20.
There's no doubt Downs will be extradited to Alaska to stand trial, but Howaniec said he's exercising his right to contest extradition to be as prepared as possible.
Howaniec and another attorney, Jesse Archer, are going through the steps necessary to represent Downs in Alaska and to begin the discovery process.