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Crime & Courts

State didn’t violate Fairbanks murder suspect’s right to speedy trial, judge rules

File - In this Aug. 6, 2019, file photo, Steven Downs is led into a courtroom for arraignment in Anchorage, Alaska.Downs has pleaded not guilty after being charged in the sexual assault and murder of a woman in Alaska in a case that remained unsolved for years. Downs entered his plea Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, in a courtroom in Fairbanks, Alaska. He is charged in the death of Sophie Sergie, who was found stabbed and shot in a bathtub at a University of Alaska Fairbanks dormitory. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)

FAIRBANKS - The right of a Fairbanks murder suspect to a speedy trial was not violated by delays in transporting him from Maine to Alaska, a judge ruled Tuesday.

An attorney for Steven Downs, 45, said it took 82 days to transport him to Alaska, making it impossible for Downs to be tried within 120 days, Fairbanks television station KTVF reported.

Downs is charged with first-degree murder and sexual assault in the 1993 death of Sophie Sergie, 20. She was found dead in a bathtub of a University of Alaska Fairbanks dorm bathroom. She had been shot and stabbed.

Downs was arrested in Maine in February.

Defense attorney James Howaniec at a hearing said Downs' right to a speedy trial had been violated.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Temple on Tuesday heard testimony regarding the delay and agreed with state prosecutors that the rule was not violated because of extenuating circumstances.

U.S. Marshal John Lajeunesse testified that there were at least two mechanical issues with the aircraft used to transport Downs to Alaska that caused a delay. Also, Lajeunesse said, a building where Downs was housed was under a medical quarantine on the day that Downs was supposed to be transported.

Howaniec in a statement said he was not troubled by the judge's decision.

"We are happy that we'll be moving forward on our motions to dismiss and suppress evidence in April," he said.

Downs was a university student at the time of the killing and lived at the dorm where Sergie's body was found, according to Alaska State Troopers. Downs attended UAF from 1992 to 1996, moved to Arizona and later moved to Maine, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

DNA genetic genealogy testing led to Downs, Alaska State Troopers said last year after his arrest in Auburn, Maine.