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Arrest Made in Fairbanks Cold Case

February 15, 2019 (ANCHORAGE, Alaska) – After nearly 26 years, the Alaska State Troopers is finally able to help an Alaskan family get one step closer to justice. On February 15, 2019, Steven H. Downs, 44 of Auburn, Maine was arrested and charged for the sexual assault and murder of Sophie Sergie.

 

On April 24, 1993, Sophie Sergie, 20 years of age of Pitkas Point, flew to Fairbanks for an appointment and to visit friends. Even though she wasn’t currently enrolled as a student, she was staying with a friend at Bartlett Hall on the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) campus. Sophie was scheduled to fly home to Pitkas Point following her appointment on April 26. She never made it to her appointment or home. Sophie was last seen alive shortly after midnight when she left the dorm to smoke a cigarette. She was found dead in a bathtub at Bartlett hall at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks (UAF) that afternoon when a janitor showed up to clean. Initial investigation was determined that Sophie had been sexually assaulted and murdered.
 

Despite the arduous and meticulous effort done by a variety of investigators over the years, a suspect had not been identified. However, in April of 2018, the Golden State Serial Killer was arrested following identification through Genetic Genealogy. Encouraged by the new investigative method, the Cold Case Unit (CCU) submitted the unknown DNA profile from Sophie’s case in July of 2018 to Parabon Nanolabs, a Virginia-based company which utilizes extracted DNA to perform the genetic genealogy testing.
 

Finally, after a little over a quarter of a century, CCU had a likely suspect, identified through the same method that lead to the Golden State Killer, that was alive and living on the opposite end of the country.  Armed with the new information, the CCU was able to conduct follow up investigation to determine that Downs (18 at the time of the killing) had been a student at UAF at the time Sophie was killed. Furthermore, Downs lived in Bartlett Hall at UAF. From there, CCU worked with Maine authorities to bring the case to fruition. Steven H. Downs was taken into custody at a local business in Maine. He will be extradited to Alaska to face charges in connection to the murder and sexual assault of Sophie Sergie.
 

“While an arrest doesn’t bring Sophie back, we are relieved to provide this closure. This case has haunted and frustrated Sophie’s family and friends, the investigators and beyond. However, we did it. Investigators never gave up on Sophie,” said Colonel Barry Wilson, Director of the Alaska State Troopers. “Moving forward, AST will continue to work our cold cases until all feasible leads are exhausted. We hope that we can provide this same closure to other families that have long waited for justice.”
 

The Alaska State Troopers would like to thank the multitude of other agencies that have assisted us with this investigation, to include the Auburn Maine Police Department, the Maine State Police (MSP) Unsolved Homicide Unit, the MSP Evidence Response Team and the MSP Tactical Team.

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Trooper Laterals Complete Training


February 8, 2019 (ANCHORAGE, Alaska) – Today five new laterally hired troopers completed their six week lateral training in Anchorage. Following a brief graduation ceremony at DPS headquarters in Anchorage, they are headed to their duty stations to start their field training, which lasts about two months. One will be stationed in Soldotna as an Alaska Wildlife Trooper, two will be stationed at the Fairbanks Alaska State Troopers Post, and the other two will work in Kodiak and Palmer as Alaska State Troopers. 

·        Trooper Steve Cantine, Soldotna AWT
·        Trooper Derek Cottle, Fairbanks AST
·        Trooper Nick Sailer, Fairbanks AST
·        Trooper Derek Beaver, Kodiak AST
·        Trooper Eyzik Sporleder, Palmer AST

Please join us in wishing them well as they join our ranks and serve the people of Alaska.
Lateral applicants do NOT need to take our initial written test, and can apply right away. Most will be required to attend ALET in Sitka, but those who have already attended ALET, or who have training from other state para-military academies may be exempt from attending ALET.  For more info on our lateral hire program check out: https://dps.alaska.gov/AST/Recruit/Lateral

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Alaska Recognizes February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention Month

February 5, 2019 (ANCHORAGE, Alaska) – February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention Month. According to the 2017 Alaska Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 1,911 high school students experienced sexual and/or physical dating violence. It is also known that 75% of parents have never talked to their children about domestic violence.  Considering these alarming facts, every year during the month of February advocates join efforts to raise awareness about dating violence, highlight promising practices, and encourage communities to get involved.
 
This year, the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (CDVSA) is partnering with Sitkan’s Against Family Violence (SAFV) and supporting the hard work of the Sitka Youth Leadership Committee (SYLC). “The posters and stickers being printed and delivered to high schools throughout the state were developed and designed by SYLC,” explained Ann Rausch, program coordinator, CDVSA.
 
SYLC is a group of youth from Sitka and Mt. Edgecumbe high schools who strive to promote positive values such as acceptance, diversity, and equity in their schools and communities. These materials were created to focus on healthy teen relationships.  SYLC members attended in depth trainings about imagery in advertising and media to understand how to convey the best message possible. Everything from the background colors to the big, bold tagline came from the minds of youth leaders in SYLC.
 
According to Rausch, there are a variety of events happening throughout the state this February supporting teen dating violence awareness and prevention. One such event is “#Orange4Love Day”, to spread awareness of teen dating violence. 
                                              
We ask all Alaskans to Wear Orange on Tuesday, Feb. 12!   “Our ultimate goal is to stop dating violence before it starts,” expressed Rausch. “Strategies that promote healthy relationships are vital to that goal.”
 
Today, on Feb. 5, Governor Mike Dunleavy issued a Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month Proclamation emphasizing the importance of recognizing this important issue (gov.alaska.gov/newsroom/category/proclamations/)
 
For additional resources, log on to susuak.org, loveisrespect.org, Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Facebook posts, or call the loveisrespect helpline at 1-866-331-9474.  
 
For More Information Contact CDVSA:
Ann Rausch, Program Coordinator, or L. Diane Casto, Executive Director, at 907.465.4356
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