Diane Downs: Her Children Got in the Way of Her Love
A scouring of the entire crime area had failed to produce the murder weapon, but ejected casings from a spent .22 caliber (matching those in the car) were discovered in the vicinity. Divers even plunged into the Mohawk River, which runs through the topography, but could not find the gun. Unfortunately, the river churned here and ran a rapid course that time of year, in the spring, and experts determined that had the gun been tossed into the waters, it would have been flushed away miles on the river's current. Hugi, who figured the courts hadn't much of a case against Diane Downs without the murder weapon, even went to look for the gun himself. He waded along the river, turned over loose stones, kicked through the reed grass, scuffed the toe of his shoe through the ditch alongside the road to upturn loose soil but nothing.
To sink his spirits further, he learned that Christie Downs had suffered a stroke, a direct symptom of the gunshot wound. Her speech was distorted and, the physicians told him, she may never speak again. The left side of the brain, the side that controlled the ability to speak, had been injured. But, there was hope, albeit slight. Doctors prayed that, because she was so young, they could reverse the deterioration with therapy and restore her slurring tongue.
There was no gun to condemn Diane. And perhaps the only live witness to the murder, the murderer's own daughter, would be unable to accuse her mother. But Hugi more than ever believed that Diane was guilty when he was shown the diary and the letters confiscated from her home. They both reeked of a longing for the Arizona man, her lost love, a man who, by the tone of the pages, had deserted her. The cause of his desertion may have been and the diary hinted this that his wife had simply stepped in to put the clamps down.
One passage caught Hugi's attention. It was dated April 21, less than a month before the crime on Mohawk Road. Like so many entries, it was written in the form of a letter addressed to someone else, but used as a meter to weigh her own thoughts on such a thing. This passage, like most of the others, was addressed to her former lover, and read:
"What happened? I'm so confused. What could she have said or done to make you act this way? I spoke to you this morning for the last time. It broke my heart to hear you say 'don't call or write'. ...I still think of you as my best friend and my only lover, and you keep telling me to go away and find somebody else. You have got to be kidding..."
Hugi resolved to get to the bottom of this business. He kept asking himself, who is he, and is he involved in any way in the murder scheme? He doubted it, but yet he could not get over the feeling that her obsession with this ex-boyfriend had driven her to lift that gun against her own children. They were obstacles in the path of singly obtaining him and if he was correct in his guesswork, would the man's wife be Diane's next victim?
Diane's letters were visions of fantasies; they spoke of masturbation engendered by thoughts of her one true lover. In one letter, between references to sexual self-pleasure, she rhymes:
"I love you more/than could your wife/Yet it's brought sorrow/to my life/I just keep hoping/and hanging on/How much longer/can I be strong?"
Perhaps she could "be strong" no longer, Hugi wondered.
Before the weekend ended, he dispatched two of his investigators to Chandler, Arizona, to find out who this man of her wet dreams really was.
The week of May 23rd was a sad one, yet it brought optimism. Cheryl Downs' funeral took place on the 25th to much bereavement from family, intimate friends and the Springfield community. But, yet good news came from McKenzie-Willamette Hospital: both Christie and Danny were out of danger. One of Christie's arms was paralyzed and her speech was garbled for now, albeit doctors believed capable of being revitalized; Danny would probably be crippled for the rest of his life, but his brain had not been affected and he would live.
Both kids had been lucky, totally-against-the-odds lucky.