Steven Downs, 44, of Auburn, right, stands for his initial appearance in 8th District Court in Lewiston on Feb. 19. Downs has been charged with the 1993 rape and murder of 20-year-old Sophie Sergie at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Standing with Downs is Attorney Richard Charest. Credit: Andree Kehn | Sun Journal | AP

The Maine board that regulates nurses in the state issued Steven Downs a warning for unprofessional behavior after the Livermore Falls care facility where he had been working fired him, public records show.

Nearly two years later, the 44-year-old Downs would be arrested and charged with murder and sexual assault in a 1993 Alaska case that had gone cold for decades.

In a consent agreement with Downs signed in March 2017, the Maine State Board of Nursing notes that the Harris House in Livermore Falls dismissed the man the previous year for “a totality of substandard performance.”

Included were references to unspecified comments he had made on at least two occasions that made co-workers “uncomfortable,” as well as mistakes he made in administering medication to residents of the health care facility.

Downs at the time apologized for one of the comments and at least partly blamed the medication errors on the facility’s staffing shortage.

Prosecutors say Downs sexually assaulted, stabbed and shot 20-year-old Sophie Sergie in April 1993 when both were students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Sergie’s partially undressed and mutilated body was reportedly found in a dormitory bathtub and DNA evidence was allegedly recovered from the crime scene, but DNA processing technology wouldn’t be introduced in Alaska until seven years later.

Police did not reportedly match the DNA to Downs until this month, after a forensic genealogist discovered similarities to Downs’ aunt’s, which had been collected in a public database used to research family heritage, according to the Washington Post.

Richard Charest, an attorney who represented Downs in court last week, said Downs is a registered nurse who is not currently working. Charest called the charges “a very old allegation” and said Downs “thinks there must be some kind of mistake,” according to the Associated Press.

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.