When they got to the hospital, Diane reported that a stranger demanded her car and shot the kids when she refused to give it to him. When Diane was explaining what happened, hospital personnel wrapped up her arm from a gunshot. Walking out of the ER, Diane wondered if her car was okay. After she escorted police to the scene where the incident occurred, one of the most massive criminal investigations in the state of Oregon has begun.
In a case like this, when detectives arrived at the hospital, they expected to find an inconsolable mother - considering what she went through - irate - but NO what they came upon was someone who was still VERY rational & in control. When word came about that her daughter, Cheryl, was dead, Diane's demeanor was flat. She laughed at odd times. When word came about son, Danny, Diane's reaction was to wonder if it missed his heart? What going over what initially happened that night, Diane explained that her & the kids had gone to see a horse who belonged to a friend. After the visit, Diane had impulsively went sightseeing w/ the kids, after noticing the kids had fallen asleep, they headed home. When she pulled on an unfamiliar road, that was when Diane said she spotted a strange man in the road. After Diane asked why he was in the road, he said he wanted he car. When she refused - he fired a gun in the car. Diane stated that she pretended to throw her car keys after he shot her in the arm after and argument for the car and they took off for the hospital.
After Diane had perused and signed the consent form to search her home, she then wondered about being a suspect - automatically? Diane stated that she had only been in town a few weeks after moving to Springfield to be w/ her parents so they could see their grandchildren working as a postmaster. Although Diane didn't want to stay in the hospital, she made them promise not to tell her dad about the out-of-the-ordinary tattoo on her left shoulder: a rose w/ the name Lew underneath.
When police detectives did a consented run-through of Diane's apartment, they found some things that drew an eye. Ex. - an engraved unicorn that had hidden meaning when purchased. A gun that Diane had told them about. She had asked for a notebook in which she wrote, that cops copied first due to evidence because of the contents inside of letters written & not sent to "Lew". At the hospital, Diane had called work and asked to talk to Lew, who wanted nothing from her and a simple life w/ his wife and kids.
The first time Diane came to visit her daughter, what some expected to be a tearful reunion wasn't. Diane stared down at Christie, then w/ her uninjured hand, reached for Christie's good right hand and squeezed hard. She kept repeating the same phrase over again - "I Love You". Someone glanced over to the heart rate monitor Christie was on and seen the number excel from 80-to-147. Which only said one thing - Fear! Then Diane left the room.
When investigators searched the site, they found NOTHING! Fred Hugi was back at his post between Christie & Danny. He became a familiar fixture. During the police questioning, when detectives used the name Lew, they were in danger of losing Diane's interest/control in questioning. Detectives states that Diane was describing a B.H. S. (Bushy Haired Stranger) as someone as a suspect. Somebody you could bring up but never produce. Diane's description of her attacker raised hairs on the detectives. The holes in Diane's story were unexplainable. If indeed a "stranger" did stop in the road for Diane's car, why didn't they shoot Diane? Hearing the scenarios of what transpired, detectives wondered if they had already met the instinctive killer: Diane.
In normal settings, police would see someone too scared to death to speak, afraid of the result from the "killer", but she seemed more than well/in-check each day. When Diane went to visit the kids, she would just stand there at the end of the kids' beds - awkwardly. Then leave - w/o saying ANYTHING! Going over the injuries, detectives noticed that Diane had been shot and re-examined the site where. She had been shot in the 1 place in the arm that caused the least amount of pain. Each day after her stroke, Christie had lost most of her ability to speak. It had also paralyzed her right arm. Danny was now paralyzed permanently from his spinal cord and subdued to a wheelchair.
When Diane was released from the hospital, she was "terrified". She also had to do one other thing she dreaded, move back in w/ her parents. When she was in school, Diane excelled. She could've achieved anything w/ an I.Q. of 125. As a child, Diane Downs felt ignored by her mother & tormented by her father. She was 12 when she recalled being sexually abused by her father. Something that happened often. After an incident happened that involved a highway patrolman, it was over as quickly as it began. In her teens, Diane didn't feel worthy of love. She felt ugly as if her fathers abuse had marked her. But she was very pretty. Her only TRUE friends were animals. She found them more trustworthy than humans.
Diane met Steve Downs when she was 15. He was the same. Since, technically, he was still a boy, Diane took a liking to! He was the first male to make Diane feel like she was pretty. Since her parents hated Steve, it made Diane want him more. Within months of dating, she confided to him about the abuse. Her self-manifestation ended up proceeding to scratching her own face. After going out w/ Steve one night, they didn't return. They would live together. Finally getting married. Steve Downs was more than a groom, he was Diane's ticket out. In letters/interviews, Diane often refers to herself as "a little girl" and other adults as "grownups". In 1977, after 2 kids, Steve had a vasectomy, but in '78 he had it reversed. Diane had an affair by choice of hers. Knowing her cycle, she asked for a pregnancy. After a troubled pregnancy, she had a boy named Danny. The man whom Diane had the affair/fathered Danny was Russ Phillips. But Diane only allowed him to see Danny when she needed a babysitter. But sometimes Christie & Cheryl would have Jekyll & Hyde for a mom.
In April 1980, after watching 'Donahue', Diane wrote to someone she seen on the show and volunteered to be a surrogate. After the Downs' marriage finally burst, Diane moved on. She was never w/o a lover. But in 1981, Diane went to KY for the insemination "job". She looked at the pregnancy as a way to replace the child she aborted. Her pregnancy w/ this child had the other Downs children COMPLETELY ignored & cared for by neighbors. Diane was only looking out for herself. She beat Steve for custody in divorce court. But she was never w/ them. She was too busy re-living her lost youth/teenage years of abuse. She was blind to the way she treated her kids. She referred to them as 'The Four Musketeers'. Them (Diane, Christie, Cheryl & Danny) against the world. Diane was due on 5-10-82. She then decided that it was no longer the aborted child, Carrie. She honored the contract and flew home to Arizona w/ the $10,000 fee.She felt a sense of joy & well-being.
Diane sang along to 'Duran Duran'. She went ahead to find a place for a new man, Lew Lewiston. After Lew had signified the end of their relationship, that he had decided to stay w/ his wife, Nora and work things out, he tried to end communication w/ her. But Diane wouldn't have it. She stalked him. He told her prior that he didn't want to be a daddy. Detectives had asked Lew, "if he knew if Diane had any guns?" He replied that he knew of them, he seen them in the car the night prior . . .
In Eugene, Diane's diary had been so obsessively involved w/ Lew. Even the poems retrieved had been about him. Det. Hugi could believe that the love affair had been powerful enough - on both sides -that might make her conspire to eliminate the kids. One detective repeated that Lew had told him he thinks Diane shot the kids b/c of him. The case was beginning to fit together. Lew not wanting to be a daddy - that was motive.
If Diane had a favorite song, it was Duran Duran's 'Hungry Like A Wolf' due to it's subject of frustrated passion. But she insisted that it was Cheryl's. Diane's writing's in he diary were a complete diary of reality. She seemed to believe wholeheartedly that it was HER who made all of the sacrifices. Diane had sent Lew a box of flowers - which he refused. But she kept them and left them in the trunk of the car. They were still when detectives investigated the car. Detectives found that Diane's diary hardly ever mentioned the kids at all. The only mention was that "the kids liked him too". But how could they? Lew hardly knew the kids. Christie said that her mother's moods depended on Lew. Investigating the letters Diane sent, she hadn't listened to a word that Lew said. After reading the diary so many times, Diane's focal point changed as if she just discovered her kids. Reading on, they found that Diane had purchased a brass unicorn & had it engraved. She had re-enacted a whole day she'd spent w/ the kids. The date inscribed on the unicorn (5-13-83) was to symbolize the death's of the kids. As if they were supposed to die on that day! After Diane had chatted w/ a friend on the phone for an hour, she told the kids to get in the car, they were going for a ride . . .
She had written that Diane and the kids moved back as the Four Musketeers. Diane vowed to finish school and study pre-med. She would work her way through school @ night - then go to medical school. Knowing it might take years, she replied to find shortcuts. Diane was starving for TOO MUCH attention. She worked closely in the post office w/ Lew Lewiston.
At the time, Diane's diary from the night of the shooting was found as a gushy, high school girl smitten w/ her first love had written it. Investigators had found that Diane's car had signs that someone had shot the kids from outside the car. Thinking Lew was the motive. They had to get Diane to talk. They went to talk to Lew and made this case Priority One. The psychologist, Paula, that worked w/ Christie & Danny, began to gain trust from Christie. Diane sought her as an 'evil witch'. Whenever she would bring Christie a doll, Diane snatched it from Christie, who was paralyzed, and threw it against the wall. Christie then filled w/ terror.
Diane added one more ambition to her roster. She wanted to marry Lew. She knew he wasn't interested in being a father. She assured Lew that the kids wouldn't bother him. Lew thought Diane would've treated him like a normal liaison. But he soon found her possessive. The kids had apparently led the gypsy life. Anywhere Diane lived or sent them to live they'd be dragged thru like a rag-doll. At the center of everything was Lew Lewiston. She'd given up EVERYTHING for Lew and he abandoned her to go w/ his wife.
Diane prevailed to think Lew could fix anything. She'd be down, but she'd bounce back. She was so confident that she got a rose tattoo on her right shoulder. She explained that the tattoo symbolize that she was ONLY Lew's and the tattoo was his mark. Something to symbolize their love. It only made Lew uncomfortable. Diane kept saying that she didn't want a daddy for her kids. She wanted someone to love HER and care about HER and like the kids. When it came to the tattoo, Diane had urged Lew to get an identical. Lew had once given Diane 4 plastic cups. Diane symbolized them as him accepting her & the 3 kids. Lew did indeed get a tattoo on his arm. A rose w/ Diane's name.
In Diane's mind, EVERYTHING was all set. Her kids/belongings were in O.R. and her job was in Chandler. All she had to do was wait for Lew. In her diary, she spoke of nothing but Lew and herself, hardly mentioning the kids at all. In her diary, she had written about the day and the unicorn and then the next page was blank. All that was dated was Thursday, 5-19-83. The rest of the page was blank and the diary ended.
Investigators had discovered some of the cartridges removed from the .22 rifle in Diane's closet had, at one time, been through the very gun that shot Cheryl, Christie & Danny. Fred Hugi felt he had a breakthrough in evidence. After going through Diane's burned-up trailer, they passed a metal detector only to find metal lead. It was a .22 slug like some of the bullets in O.R. If it matched, they would have probable cause to arrest Diane. Diane visited Christie & Danny constantly. Snuggling & whispering. Christie was beginning to speak - haltingly - but deputies could understand Christie, at this point, knew that her sister was dead & that her brother was hurt. Her mother came over everyday, but guards stood watch. Diane learned the day after surgery for her arm that Christie & Danny were removed from her custody. Diane stated that she was going to take her children out of the hospital and no one was going to stop her. After a custody battle, Diane lost and had to make appointments to see the kids. But she won over the media.
Cops were starting to get angry. They were since they had enough for a murder charge, but they grew tired of barking out orders & nagging the crime lab for evidence. Diane had declared that she raced to the hospital w/ her bleeding babies, driving out as fast as she dared to get them there alive "and that she kept going . . . and going". She had not noticed there was car behind her, but she was too busy concentrating on sights & sounds inside the car. Fred Hugi believed that Diane did indeed see the look on Christie's face, b/c she was terrified/horrified to see the gun in Diane's hand. It was pitch black outside the car, the dome light was on inside the car. No One could have seen anything outside but blackness. The bloody beach towel Diane used to cover her arm was something of a code to break, by the pattern of the blood to solve. They folded/unfolded the towel to figure it out.
It was essential for Christie & Danny to be placed in foster care where they would be properly cared for. They went to foster parents Ray & Evelyn Slavin, where they would do everything to bring the kids through as while/secure as possible. Christie was released from the hospital after 5 weeks. She was so very thin, her R arm paralyzed. They were VERY patient & knew what to expect after bringing Christie home. She had difficulty w/ her speech, but grew more verbal each week. Even though she was only 8, they were surprised to see her helping out w/ chores at the Slavins. They provided Christie w/ love and security. Something did way too much on Christie's mentality, but the Slavins tried hard not to push it!
After 2 years of prep, courts were still worried about what Christie could remember & especially of her mother was the shooter and if she could say it! A thousand times in the summer of '83, they were waiting to press charges until they were ready. Or until they found a gun. Diane had learned at this point how to deal w/ detectives. She began to cry softer her voice. A woman in so much pain that she couldn't be shading the truth. Even w/o her kids, Diane was busy w/ messing police, her diary & an interview anytime she wanted one. Pretty soon she would have her postal job back. Even better for her: Lew was back in her life. In an effort to get Diane to confess, police taped and used Lew for the truth. Whatever infatuation/feelings Lew had for Diane were now completely DEAD! His first phone call to Diane was on 7-2-83 and she was glad to hear from him. She no longer trusted any man - even Lew. In July, Diane was ready to go back carrying the mail. Her voice was as girly & cheerful as though she just talked to Lew. When she talked to him, she said of another trip to Arizona. Their conversation was just the same - no mention about the kids. The more Lew called Diane, the more she opened up! Ending their conversations w/ Diane repeating 'I Love You's to him - almost devouring - which made Lew shiver.
Wes Fredrickson told detectives that he knew of Christie's whereabouts, but didn't tell his daughter, If Wes knew, then it was only a matter of time before Diane did. For a murderer, one thing Diane never did was keep her mouth shut. If there was an opportunity to talk, she grabbed at it. Pulling attention to herself. With Carl Peterson, Christie was able to mention her mother aloud, although her speech impediment rendered when she did, Christie, who was more afraid of working w/ Carl, had images coming more frequently. She had known all along, it was just so hard to say out loud. (Can her blame her?) Diane said that she just wanted someone to say 'I Love You', Ironic b/c that was something the kids always did. After several attempts at a private interrogation, detectives questioned Diane who kept w/ her same diatribe. When the heat began stronger, Diane pointed "pain" to he arm. A little more arguing and then she left.
On Aug 3RD, Diane had minor surgery to remove bone chips from her arm. A second court hearing concerning visitation was on Aug. 4TH. She didn't go. Diane was ordered to see a psychiatrist. Her scores indicated anti-social personality problems. Diane's mood lifted when Christie sent her mother a birthday card. Elated that she remembered. No matter what she was able to remember, Christie viewed Diane, not as her mom, but as a lost little girl w/o friends. Diane w/ attorney's in tow, flew to Chandler in 1983. After 5 months, Lew barely spoke to her. She was stunned by the cold shoulder received by everyone. She no longer had any friends, she spent her time in a hot stifling car.
Christie Downs was making tremendous progress living in the foster home. She couldn't speak clearly, her R arm was paralyzed. But she laughed now and her nightmares were sporadic. She was becoming comfortable w/ Dr. Peterson. In Sept., Danny was released from the hospital after 4 months. He would live w/ his sister and the Slavins. They (Christie & Danny) only had each other. He was/remained in a wheelchair. The shooting was losing headlines at this point. Diane's emotional state evolved around a man. She began to drink. She had been lonely and wanted a man. Her eyes sat on Matt Jensen - a teacher. Later on as they spoke and he couldn't believe she'd done it. He felt sorry for her. He would "company" her but she considered him a full-time lover. Diane was becoming TOO MUCH for him and he quietly left w/ no word of his whereabouts.
Diane then laughed at Steve for being so dramatic. She laughed off that they had a wonderful time. Diane said that Christie asked about the shooting, but Diane said the police wont let her discuss it. Christie then asked about Lew. Diane then took her to see her grandparents. Wes cried and he FORBIDS crying. Steve was really upset when Diane did come back. When they did come back, Steve noticed the kids were so relaxed & nice and, now that Diane seen them , they were somber like mice. When Carl Peterson seen Christie, he noticed that she was almost right back where they started. Diane had wanted CSD to know about her visit w/ Christie but in a roundabout way.
Fred Hugi was appalled that Diane did see the kids. Diane knew the date of her menstrual cycle and vowed & accomplished getting pregnant again. The man she used was pissed and upset b/c Diane had used him. He wanted nothing to do w/ her. She wanted a baby inside and didn't care how she got it. He now knew that Diane just took what she wanted. What happened next was what they expected, Christie, through role play, reenacted what happened & what her mother had done. In doing that for a jury would secure a conviction of guilty & truth.
The list of people Christie trusted grew longer. Meanwhile, even though it hurt them both emotionally, Fred Hugi was forcing himself to start preparing Christie in court. He promised her he wold be there for her. He prepped her and nothing came as a surprise. Diane didn't say much about the case. At this point, things were starting to go south w/ Diane at her parents house. Very old wounds & secrets began to-unsurface. The atmosphere in the house was oppressive. They were sure Diane was hiding something. Fifteen years since the incident in the desert, Diane remembered. She could tell she was beginning to wear out her welcome. On 2/26, Diane had a doozy of a fight w/ her dad. It began w/ Wes telling Diane she had to move out, he couldn't stand to live w/ her and her anger. Diane started to spout the truth to her mother - Willadene didn't believe her. The next night Wes ordered Diane out of his house. But Willadene kept contact w/ her daughter. That days 24hrs. would be her last - only she didn't know it. On May 19, 1983, it ws handed down. The State Of Oregon V. Diane Downs.
Charges were as follows: - Murder, - Attempted Murder, - Attempted Murder, - Assault In The First Degree & - Assault In The First Degree. After no more reasons, the time has come for arrest warrants for Diane Downs. Diane was now in her fifth month of pregnancy. Ironically it took the state 9 months to get n arrest on her. After the arrest & booking on 2-28-84, everything now hinged on 9-year-old Christie. The time would come. Diane did not understand the problems she was facing.
She did receive a number of letters from "the guys" in jail, it helped her immeasurably remain cheerful. She wasn't even disturbed that she had corresponded w/ a convicted rapist. When it came trial, Diane just wanted it over with. She didn't care to never see the state of Oregon.
To bolster his arguments, Det. Hugi sighted that Diane had produced two different composites of the suspect. Very conflicting tales, one minute she says she knew the guy, b/c he made reference to her tattoo, the next she didn't know him at all. When the trial starts, in opening, they had everything - the prosecution. The motive, the method & the opportunity. As the defense speaks, women in the gallery are agape. Both sides agree in court, it all rests on Christie Ann Downs. On Monday 5/14, the judge, the jury & Diane aboard a bus and go to Old Mohawk Rd. - the scene of the crime - Diane stays on the bus, but they all investigate the crime scene. As testimonies continue, the jury becomes more/more subdued. After testimony from doctors & other experts, it was now time for one of the children to testify. The only survivor of this crime - Christie.
Prosecution tried to make it easy as possible for her. They don't know if she can do it - w/ her mother staring at her. But she does have support from her entire foster family. As she is escorted into the room into her seat - the room is quiet and wondering if she'll tell what really happened that night? She takes the stand, her face is full of fear and pain. The stroke left her w/ slight paralysis. No matter who is out there in the gallery or how much prep has gone on, Christie is doing this alone. She can't stop crying - but refuses to run. Fred Hugi walks close to Christie, she feels comfortable w/ him close. A VERY EMOTIONAL & HIGHLY INTENSE testimony was given of truth and nothing but Christie and the sound of heartbeats equated the quiet room. The questioning was hard and in one way a sort of courage that could avenge her sister's death. Christie began to sob, spectators hearing began to sob. Diane turns her head away. She begins to cry and Christie begins to hold her face in her hands to block out the memory she can no longer hold back tears. Her voice is thick and clotted w/ tears. She tells the truth about the night of events. As she telling this, almost everyone is crying. After several manipulative questions, that Christie isn't buying, & a short recess there's an emotional re-direct. Afterward Christie is worn/exhausted. She did it!
Diane officially takes the stand in May 1984. The doors were open to questions on the prosecution. She didn't care. She had to explain her story. From the "abuse", from her dad, to her marriage to Steve and, to being a parent. As Diane is testifying, her voice sounds "different" from the letters she'd written concerning Lew. Her voice sounded more of a forceful denying from him. During the trial, all the words are right for her favor. Diane even stated that when they played 'Duran Duran', "The tapes have no bad connotations. It was Cheryl's favorite tape & that it can't make her feel bad" (Side note: As a mother, wouldn't that make you unable to listen to that tape after the fact - if you really didn't do anything?) The strain of trial has made Diane go into labor early - Nope she came in late. Because she is still pregnant, it's like she vowed to stay that way. If she doesn't deliver, they can't take the baby away. When asked how she felt talking about the night of the attack? She responds: "Much of the pain is gone." Then the courtroom filled w/ women w/ more of a . . . . "If they had been me. . ."
Diane stars to ease in her line of answers and spouts everything. The buck stops at Lew Lewiston. The more she talks, the more damage she makes to herself. After the prosecution digs deeper in questioning, about the events on the night of the shooting. Diane shortly shows signs of tears, but more of frustration/rage. After questioning calmed, everyone is becoming done w/ her.
After a few more witnesses, it's over - time for final arguments - then the verdict. Organizing the entire case in final arguments. In rebuttal, the jury is asked to remember the kids - one dead & 2 forever disabled. Remember who did this? While the defense pointed her as "they're out to get her". Paul Alton also discussed the blood pattern and fit stains. It remained as some sort of puzzle on the towel Diane used for he arm. After figuring out the blood match-up, he shows the jury just how this was done and why Diane had no blood in the car. Considering the perfect pattern, it was as if Diane pre-planned the shot. This becomes a blow for the defense. Now it's a wait for the jury.
After 3 grueling day, a jury comes back and finds Diane guilty of the following:
. first degree attempted murder
. a second count of first degree attempted murder
. first degree assault
Ten days later, Diane gave birth to a girl, Amy Elizabeth Downs. She was able to hold he for a long time. But within a few hours, Diane was back in her jail cell. Even as Diane was to be fully sentenced, she still proclaimed "the killer is out there". "I'll do time for this man." Her sentence which was to run consecutively, Life + 5 years (for using a firearm). For Attempted Murder, 30 years w/ 15 yr. mandatory. For Assault in the first degree, 20 yrs w/ a 10 yr. minimum. All together that's life plus 50 years.
After Diane had been in prison for 3 months, the DA's office called w/ apparent news. The missing 22-ruger was found in a narcotics raid by sargents. After ALOT of research, this was in fact the gun that Diane stole from Steve Downs. All the pieces were beginning to fit together after reveling that Diane had the gun that was missing on 5-19. After her first year in prison, Diane fit the FULL profile of a woman "hardened" in prison.
|Amy Elizabeth/Rebecca Babcock|
In an update interview in 1986, Diane changed. Her voice was soft and with great reticence. She was no longer the transparent, verbose woman who spoke without thinking. While she never refused an interview, her time in infamy was growing dim. She was turned down for a new trial. Diane was enraged about the original printed copy of this book, 'Small Sacrifices'. She was upset about the book cover. On July 11TH, Diane took the shot early at 8:00AM outside w/ no guards paying close attention. She had been prepared, jumped the fence & escaped! After she escaped, the prison notified Fred Hugi of Diane's plan to get to Danny & Christie.The second obvious place to go was to Lew & Nora's. At 8:55AM, prison nurse JoAnn Bowlin arrived for work. Her eyes caught movement at the northern part of the parking lot under a 1955 Chevrolet Pick-Up. It was Diane Downs. An A.P.B. was made. Fred Hugi kept a closer watch and was in no danger of being caught off-guard.
At 10:20p, a call was made by a Salem family. Glenda and Charles Hawkins and 4-out-of-7 of their kids were drawn to a woman in the road. They spotted her behavior. They compared the face they seen to the newspaper articles they had. It was her! Everyone, after receiving a call from the Salem's, were in a panic for her to be found. Sightings were called in as well as bulletins. On 7-22, a husband of an inmate gave consent to search and found Diane. After waiting and having no wherelse to go, she cooperated. She was out for 11 days before she was finally recaptured and remanded in prison.
In 1989, a made-for-TV movie was made based on this book and of the Downs' case that featured the late Farrah Fawcett as Diane and beau Ryan O'Neal as Lew Lewiston.
|The kids today|