Elizabeth Diane Frederickson Downs is an American woman convicted of the May, 1983, murder of her daughter and the attempted murders of her other two children. Take a look below for 26 more bizarre and interesting facts about Diane Downs.
1. Following the crimes, she told police that a stranger had attempted to carjack her and had shot the children.
2. She was convicted in 1984 and sentenced to life in prison plus 50 years.
3. Downs briefly escaped in 1987 an was recaptured.
4. She’s the subject of a book by Ann Rule and a made-for-TV movie based upon it, both called Small Sacrifices.
5. She was denied parole in December, 2008, and again in December, 2010.
6. Downs was born in Phoenix, Arizona, on August 7, 1955, to Danish and English American parents Wesley Linden and Willadene Frederickson.
7. She alleged that her father sexually abused her when she was a child, although she later recanted the allegations, and both of her parents denied that any incident took place.
8. Downs graduated from Moon Valley High School in Phoenix, where she met her husband, Steve Downs.
9. After high school, she enrolled at Pacific Coast Baptist Bible College in Orange, California, but was expelled after only one year for promiscuous behavior and soon returned to her parents’ home in Arizona.
10. On November 13, 1973, she married Steve after running away from home.
11. Her first child, Christie Ann, was born in 1974; Cheryl Lynn followed in 1976, with Stephen Daniel being born in 1979.
12. The couple divorced in 1980, about a year after the birth of their son.
13. Prior to her arrest, Diane was employed by the United States Postal Service, assigned to the mail routes in the city of Cottage Grove, Oregon.
14. Her daughter, Cheryl reportedly told a neighbor of her grandparents that she was afraid of her mother shortly before her death.
15. On May 19, 1983, Downs shot her three children and drove them in a blood spattered car to McKenzie-Willamette Hospital.
16. When she arrived to the hospital, Cheryl was already dead, Danny was paralyzed from the waist down, and Christie had suffered a disabling stroke. Downs herself had been shot in the left forearm.
17. Downs originally claimed that she was carjacked on a rural road near Springfield, Oregon, by a strange man who shot her and her kids. However, investigators and hospital workers became suspicious because they decided that her manner was too calm for a person that experienced a traumatic event.
18. Upon arrival at the hospital to visit her kids, Downs called Robert Knickerbocker, a married man and a former coworker in Arizona with who she had been having an affair.
19. Knickerbocker reported to the police that Downs had stalked him and seemed willing to kill his wife if it meant that she could have him to herself. He stated that he was relieved that she had left for Oregon and that he was able to reconcile with his wife.
20. Downs’ two surviving children eventually went to live with the lead prosecutor on the case, Fred Hugi. He and his wife Joanne adopted them in 1986.
21. Prior to her arrest and trial, Downs became pregnant with a fourth child and gave birth to a girl, whom she named Amy Elizabeth, a month after her 1984 trial.
22. Ten days before Downs’ sentencing, Amy was seized by the State of Oregon and adopted by a family named Babcock. Her new parents gave her the name Rebecca.
23. Downs was held at the Oregon Women’s Correctional Center in Salem. She escaped in July 11, 1987, and was recaptured just a few blocks from the prison on July 21.
24. While in prison, she earned an Associate Degree in General Studies.
25. As of 2010, she is located in the Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, California, but transferred out when the facility was converted to an all-male institution in 2013.
26. Downs faced her second parole hearing on December 10, 2010. She was denied parole and, under a new law, will not be eligible for parole for another ten years. She will have to wait to apply for parole until 2020, when she will be 65 years old.