Born In: Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Diane Downs is an American murder convict who has been serving a life sentence since 1984. She shot her three children but claimed that she was carjacked and that her children were shot by a stranger. Downs had been a suspect from the beginning. Subsequent investigations revealed that she had a strong motive to kill her children. Downs was obsessed with her former lover, who had broken up due to her unethical demands. Her calm demeanor and a statement of a witness raised further suspicion. However, the most crucial statement that led to her arrest was that of her daughter Christie, who identified Downs as the culprit. Of her three children, one died immediately after the shootout. Downs gave birth to her fourth child during her trial. She was sentenced to life imprisonment and was eligible for parole after 25 years of service. However, her two parole applications were declined. She will now be eligible for parole when she turns 65.
Also Known As: Elizabeth Diane Frederickson
Spouse/Ex-: Steve Downs (m. 1973 – div. 1980)
father: Wes Frederickson
mother: Willadene Frederickson
children: Cheryl Lynn Downs, Christie Ann Hugi, Jennifer, Rebecca Babcock, Stephen Daniel Hugi
Born Country: United States
Diane Downs was born Elizabeth Diane Frederickson, on August 7, 1955, in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., to Wesley Linden and Willadene Frederickson. She claimed she had been molested by her father as a child.
She attended the 'Moon Valley High School' in Phoenix.
Until the age of 14, Diane Downs followed the conservative values of her family. However, after that, she became a rebellious child. She even dropped “Elizabeth” from her name.
Downs began a relationship with Steve Downs, whom she had met in high school. Despite her parents' disapproval, she continued the affair.
After high school, Downs attended the 'Pacific Coast Baptist Bible College' in Orange, California, while Steve was enlisted in the navy. During the long-distance relationship, she cheated on him. She was even expelled from the college because of her lewd behavior. Downs then went back to her parents.
Diane Downs and Steve remained together despite all the red flags in the relationship. They eloped and got married on November 13, 1973. Her extramarital affairs and financial crisis hit the marriage hard.
She left Steve and went to her parents. However, by then, she had conceived. She gave birth to their first child, Christie Ann, in 1974. Their second child, Cheryl Lynn, was born in 1976. Despite Steve's vasectomy, Downs ended up getting pregnant for the third time, but she had an abortion.
Downs moved to Mesa, Arizona, in 1978. She and Steve started working at a mobile-home-manufacturing company. Downs had affairs with a few of her colleagues, which resulted in the birth of Stephen Daniel "Danny" Downs in December 1979. Steve knew he was not the father but accepted the child anyway.
After her divorce in 1980, Downs had a string of affairs but simultaneously tried to reconcile with Steve.
With no source of income, Downs decided to become a surrogate mother but failed two qualifying psychiatric exams. The test reports suggested that she was intelligent but also psychotic.
In 1981, Diane Downs began working as a postal carrier for the ‘U.S. Post Office.’ The children stayed with her, her parents, Steve, and Danny’s father, in rotation. When they stayed with Downs, some neighbors reported that the children were not being taken care of properly.
Toward the end of the year, Downs finally got an offer of surrogacy. She gave birth to a daughter through surrogacy on May 8, 1982. Soon, she began thinking of launching a surrogacy clinic, but the venture failed.
Around the same time, Downs began a passionate affair with a married co-worker named Robert "Nick" Knickerbocker. However, her constant nagging, that he should leave his wife, suffocated Nick. He ended the relationship, and Downs moved back to Oregon. However, she could not get over him and grew obsessed instead.
On May 19, 1983, Downs shot her three children: Stephen, Cheryl, and Christie. She then drove them to the 'McKenzie-Willamette Hospital,' where Cheryl was pronounced dead. Downs, too, was shot in her forearm.
Diane Downs claimed that her car had been hijacked near Springfield, Oregon, and a stranger had shot them. However, investigators suspected her story on several grounds.
Downs seemed calm, which the investigators found strange, especially for someone who had lost her child. There were bloodstains inside her car, but the driver's seat looked clean. Additionally, no gunpowder residue was found on the driver's panel.
Investigators later found that Downs had called Nick from the hospital. When he was interrogated, Nick revealed Downs's obsession with him. He said that Downs could have even murdered his wife.
Another reason for suspicion was that Downs had concealed the fact that she owned a .22 caliber handgun, something that both Steve and Nick knew.
The police came to know from Downs's diary that she had every motive to kill her children. She wanted to get rid of them so that she could be with Nick.
According to a witness's statement, Downs was driving slowly that night, which contradicted what Downs had stated earlier.
However, the most significant witness against Downs was her surviving daughter, Christie, whose speech was impaired for several months due to a stroke she suffered from the incident. After she was able to speak again, Christie stated that she feared her mother. Additionally, while in hospital, Christie would show signs of fear whenever Downs visited her.
Christie later clearly stated that her mother, Downs, had shot them.
Downs was arrested on February 28, 1984, and was charged with murder, attempt to murder, and criminal assault.
On June 17, 1984, Downs was found guilty of all the charges against her. She was sentenced to life imprisonment and an additional 50 years.
Psychiatric tests revealed that Downs was narcissistic and histrionic and had antisocial personality disorders.
Downs's surviving children were eventually adopted by one of the prosecutors of the case, Fred Hugi, and his wife, Joanne, in 1984.
Downs was pregnant when she was arrested. She gave birth to her fourth child in 1984, a month after her trial. She named the girl “Amy.”
Amy was initially under the custody of the State of Oregon and later adopted. She was renamed “Rebecca (Becky) Babcock.”
On July 11, 1987, Downs escaped the 'Oregon Women's Correctional Center’ of the ‘Oregon Department of Corrections.' She was recaptured in Salem, Oregon, on July 21 and was kept at the ‘Clinton Correctional Institution' of the 'New Jersey Department of Corrections.’ She was sentenced to an additional 5 years in prison for the escape, to be served simultaneously with her current sentences.
Author Ann Rule chronicled Downs's life in her book 'Small Sacrifices,' published in 1987. The book was adapted into a TV movie of the same name, aired in 1989. Actor Farrah Fawcett portrayed Downs in the movie.
In 1994, Downs was transferred to the 'California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.' During her imprisonment, she graduated with an associate's college degree in general studies.
As of 2010, she was housed in the 'Valley State Prison for Women.'
Downs was eligible for parole after spending 25 years in prison. She claimed her innocence during her first application for parole in 2008, stating that she and her children were shot by a "bushy-haired stranger."
Her second parole application was rejected on December 10, 2010. Downs will be eligible for the next application in 2020.
Downs's fourth child appeared on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' on October 22, 2010.
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