Who is Diane Down?
Elizabeth Diane Downs was born on August 7, 1955 in Phoenix, Arizona. Her parents are Wesley Linden and Willadene Frederickson.
Diane attended Moon Valley High School in Phoenix, where she met Steve Downs. After her high school graduation, she was enrolled at Pacific Coast Baptist Bible College in Orange, California. But, she was expelled after one year for promiscuous behavior and immediately moved back into her parents’ Arizona home.
Diane Downs, in her testimony, said that she had been sexually abused. The most shocking aspect of her story is that she was abused by her father when she was twelve years old.
After escaping her home, Diane married Steve Downs on November 13, 1973. A child was born to the couple in 1974, Christie Ann. The following two children were Cheryl Lynn and Stephen Daniel. In 1980, Steve and Diane divorced because Steve believed Stephen Daniel, their last children, resulted from Down’s affair.
After the divorce, Diane Down gave birth to a child on May 8, 1982. This child was not from her second marriage. Instead, she gave birth to this child through surrogacy (Surrogacy is an arrangement often supported by a legal agreement. It involves a woman agrees to bear a child in place of another person.). Down named that child Jennifer and then turned it to her intended parents.
Downs shot her three children on May 19, 1983, and drove them to McKenzie-Willamette Hospital in a blood-spattered car. One of them was already dead on arriving in the hospital, and the other two were in severe condition.
- Cheryl, who was just seven years old, was dead.
- Danny, who was three years old, was paralyzed from the waist down.
- Christie, who was just eight years old, was suffering a disabling stroke.
Moreover, Down also shot herself in the left forearm. She claimed that a strange man attacked her and her children after being carjacked on a rural road near Springfield, Oregon. However, investigators and hospital staff were suspicious because of the woman’s remarkably calm manner after such a traumatizing experience. The other thing that made her suspicious was the multiple statements to the police and hospital staff.
Down’s arrest was based on the following Clues:
- After the incident, Down came to see her children with a man Robert Knickerbocker who was already married to someone else, and Down was having an extramarital affair with him
- Down gave the story, and statements didn’t match with the forensic reports. The car’s front seat didn’t have any remaining gun powder, which could prove Down’s story of car hijacking.
- The police reported that Knickerbocker had stated that Downs stalked him and that she was willing to kill his wife if it meant having him all to her. The police report also noted that the couple could reconcile after she left for Oregon.
- Down owned a handgun of 22 calibers. But at the time of the investigation, she didn’t disclose the fact. But later, Steve Downs and Knickerbocker informed the investigation team about the pistol. The investigation team then discovered the fact that she bought the weapon from Arizona.
- A witness saw her car being driven very slowly toward the hospital at speed estimated between 5 and 7 miles per hour (8 and 11 kilometers per hour), disconfirming her claim that she moved to the hospital rapidly after the shooting.
- Her surviving daughter, after she regained her ability to speak, Christie, described how her mother shot all three of her children before shooting herself. The testimony more or less provided the case against her.
Nine months after the shooting, Downs was arrested on February 28, 1984, and accused of murder, attempted murder, and criminal assault based on this evidences and additional evidence.
Court and sentence:
The prosecutor of the case highlighted the fact that Down shot her children to continue her life with a man with whom she had an affair.
On June 17, 1984, Downs was convicted on all the charges and sentenced to life in prison for more than 50 years.
According to the law, she must have served 25 years before applying for parole. She was diagnosed with narcissistic, antisocial, and histrionic personality disorders. Moreover, Down would not be allowed to be free again, according to the judge.
The two children of Downs eventually moved in with the prosecutor on Fred Hugi’s case. In 1986, he adopted them with his wife, Joanne.
Almost a month after her 1984 trial, Downs became pregnant with her fourth child, a daughter named Amy Elizabeth. During the week before Downs’ sentencing, the State of Oregon seized Amy, and she was adopted by Chris and Jackie Babcock, who named the girl Rebecca.
Rebecca was interviewed on The Oprah Winfrey Show and ABC’s 20/20 about her relationship with her biological mother. As a child, she wrote to Downs and expressed regret for her actions, considering her mother to be “a monster.”.
Down’s Parole Hearing:
Downs declared her innocence in her first parole application in 2008. She said
I have told you and the rest of the world that a man shot me and my children. I have never changed my story.
District Attorney Douglas Harcleroad stated to the parole board:
Downs continues to fail to demonstrate any honest insight into her criminal behavior…even after her convictions; she continues to fabricate new versions of events under which the crimes occurred. She alternately refers to her assailants as a bushy-haired stranger, two men wearing ski masks or drug dealers and corrupt law enforcement officials.
Her next parole hearing is scheduled for 2021.