Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Diane Downs: Her Children Got in the Way of Her Love

"Princess Die"

In the middle of the grand jury's summons process and the ongoing search for more evidence, in particularly the vanished gun, the sheriff's office announced layoffs. State funds dropped and Paul Alton was laid off. Doug Welch and another of Hugi's top men, Kurt West, were given a month's notice. All of Hugi's investigators, in fact, were let go or redeployed.

Throughout the coming winter and into the spring of 1984, Diane was fast becoming the media's favorite star. Newshounds had picked up on her plight. Some medium distrusted her, but to most she was a bouncy maiden maybe not in distress but picked on by mean old Uncle Sam who couldn't find the bushy-haired beast of mythology. Because she looked a little like Princess Diana, she became the darling fashion plate of the American Pacific Coast.

Less trivial papers called her "Princess Die."

But, Hugi saw her as anything but a princess, a good or a bad one. She was more like the wicked witch, creating havoc at every point in life. Her kids had been swept from her custody, she was indignant, and sought revenge. She balked to the press that she was misunderstood, was a victim of prejudice and harassment. Ignoring her bravado, Hugi let her talk, refusing to back down. For that matter, he endeavored to bite her every footstep. And that is why he chose to let investigators Welch and West turn up the heat before they surrendered to the layoff. They dogged her.

Finally, Diane Downs called for what she hoped would turn into a peace treaty, a meeting with the two detectives to explain her side of the story and pass on further information she had not divulged since the night of the attack on Old Mohawk Road. At first, the detectives bought it, hoping this new revelation might produce something startlingly new. But, sensing they were being conned, the session led to what would become known, according to Ann Rule, as "the hardball interview."

At the parley, Diane explained that she believed the killer was someone she might have known; he had called her by name. If true, this information would have made a great impact on the entire case. But, to the two men gathered in their office with her, it was a clear charade, an attempt to delay the proceedings she felt moving against her and possibly even throw the investigators off her trail altogether. Insulted, her listeners turned the table and fell upon Diane verbally with such an interrogation that she was left the deceived instead of the deceiver.

Why was she telling them this now? She didn't know. How did he know what road she was going to take home from Heather's? She didn't know. Was he a friend from Oregon or Arizona? She didn't know. What purpose would he have to kill her kids? She didn't know. Did she really rush to the hospital immediately after the kids were shot or did she pause a while? She didn't know. Why didn't she try to stop the gunman when he began blasting away at the kids in the Nissan? She didn't know the answer to that either.

And when they asked her point blank if she tried to kill her kids because they ruined her chances with her lover...well, she had an answer to that. She called them names and threatened them and told them they were all "fed up". And stormed out.

Whether or not it was a ploy for sympathy just in case she needed some in the event of a jury trial or whether she merely needed to feel that "love" once again within her she went out and got pregnant, once again from one of her favorite studs. She made sure to explain the symbolic meaning of her action to a TV reporter: "I got pregnant because I miss Christie, and I miss Danny and I miss Cheryl so much...You can't replace children but you can replace the effect that they give you. And they give me love, they give me satisfaction, they give me stability, they give me a reason to live and a reason to be happy..."

And a reason to perhaps escape death row, Hugi sneered, watching her performance on the tube.

Paula Krogdahl, the counselor put in charge of mentally raising Christie from her nightmares was making excellent progress in the meantime. The child began to talk, to remember, to face reality. While Krogdahl tiptoed through her treatment, avoiding the murder scenario for a long time, she got Christie to speak about her family life, and her mother. Christie admitted that Diane had hit her and her brother and sister "lots". And when the day had come, the therapist asked her to recall what happened the night of what Christie called "that terrible thing":

"Was there anyone there that night that you didn't know?" asked Krogdahl, referring to the stranger on the dark road.

"No," the girl answered.

"Were Danny and Cheryl crying?"

"No."

"Why wasn't Cheryl crying?"

"...dead."

A pause, then, softly:

"Do you know who was shooting, Christie?"

"I think" But Christie could not muster the words. Krogdahl didn't push and let it go, for now.

Hugi decided to bite the bullet. Experts told him that he had enough evidence, and they believed he had a strong case. But, he would need to have to recreate that "terrible thing" in court, piece all the puzzle fragments together in such a way so that the panel of jurors saw what he saw and totally believe.

The grand jury was wrapping up after nine months of interviews; they had spoken to, quizzed, and deliberated on the words of many including Diane Downs and balanced at the end of those nine months the tomes of testimony they possessed. They handed down an indictment: one charge of murder, two charges of attempted murder, and two charges of criminal assault.

The state of Oregon was going for the child killer's throat.

Diane Downs, escorted by police
Diane Downs, escorted by police

On February 28, 1984, police cuffed Diane as she was alighting from her car in the parking lot of the post office.

 

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