New theory revives old Fairbanks murder case

Today marks 16th anniversary of unsolved killing of UAF student

Posted: Sunday, April 26, 2009

FAIRBANKS - As a new team of cold case investigators piece together the last hours of Sophie Sergie, who was raped and fatally shot in 1993, a fresh theory has emerged.

Sergie is the 20-year-old from Pitkas Point who dreamed of becoming a marine biologist but was found dead in the Bartlett Hall dormitory at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The killing sparked tighter security on the college campus and a high-profile homicide investigation that has spanned more than a decade.

Last year, the probe took on new urgency after a forensic crime scene expert was brought in to review evidence and determined that Sergie might have been killed elsewhere from where her body was found.

"There is just the possibility, and I would definitely emphasize the word possibility, that there was a second crime scene," investigator Lindy Minnick said. "Right now, it just means that we are open to the possibility of an incident or part of an incident taking place elsewhere, more than likely inside the dorm building."

Today marks the 16th anniversary of Sergie's slaying, and a memorial for the 20-year-old along with other victims of unsolved murders is planned for Golden Heart Plaza.

Sergie grew up in a small Yup'ik village on the Lower Yukon River and attended UAF on a scholarship until 1992.

The following spring, she came to Fairbanks for a dental appointment and was staying with a friend at UAF's Bartlett Hall. She called her mother and promised to call again after visiting the dentist. Instead, she was found dead in a second-story bathroom inside the residence hall. Sergie had been sexually assaulted and shot in the chest.

Authorities believe the killing took place sometime in the early morning hours.

"Sophie's case is a rare case that really is a true whodunit situation," Minnick said.

The investigation has changed hands numerous times during the years. Now, the case is a priority for the Alaska Department of Public Safety's four cold case investigators.

"We're conducting interviews," Minnick said. "We spread out and travel throughout the state and the Lower 48. People we are interviewing have moved all over."

The interviews are ongoing, and the investigators continue to look for anyone who spent time at UAF's Bartlett Hall in the spring of 1993.

The night of the slaying, Sergie was last seen alive at about midnight, smoking a cigarette in front of Hess Commons, the building that joins Bartlett Hall to two other dormitories. She was wearing navy blue sweat pants and a colorfully striped hooded shirt.

"People could have heard things that they're not sure exactly what it was," Minnick said. "A lot of times, people have no idea. A piece of information might be important to us."

DNA evidence found on Sergie is periodically run against a national database of criminal offenders' DNA. No match has been found, Minnick said.

The investigator declined to discuss whether a suspect or suspect profile exists.

"We feel like we're moving closer, but there's still a long ways to go," Minnick said. "We are definitely making progress."

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