Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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

Guilty As Sin

After that pathetic moment, the tone for the rest of the trial was set. Everything else, all other words, were anticlimactic. Diane Downs was as guilty as sin. Outside the walls of the courtroom, too, Americans who had refused to believe that a mother could consciously pull a trigger on three harmless children, her children, surrendered. She had been villified, justly, and the cross that they thought was being nailed together to crucify a martyr became suddenly an instrument of deserved justice.

On June 14, 1984, Judge Foote read aloud the jury's unanimous verdict. Guilty of attempted murder in the first degree. Guilty of a second account of attempted murder in the first degree. Guilty of first-degree assault. Guilty of another count of first-degree assault. Guilty of murder.

Oregon at the time did not impose the death sentence, but in the subsequent sentencing, the judge sought to deprive Diane Downs from the daylight of liberty forevermore. After decreeing a life term, plus an additional fifty years for using a firearm, he expressed, "The Court hopes the defendant will never again be free. I've come as close to that as possible."

*****

Between the verdict and the sentencing, the court recessed while Diane gave birth to a beautiful child, whom she named Amy. The father of the baby denied her and, in time, a caring family adopted Amy.

Diane Downs Wanted Poster
Diane Downs Wanted Poster

In 1987, Diane briefly escaped from the Oregon Women's Correctional Center, where she had been incarcerated. After her recapture, she was transported to the high-maximum Clinton Correctional Institution in New Jersey. Today she sits in the Valley Prison for Women in Chowchilla, California. She will be up for parole in 2006.

Diane's former lover and his wife remain happily married.

Steve Downs still lives in Oregon.

The children, Christie and Danny, survived the ordeal. Danny is confined to a wheelchair, but is a happy boy. Christie has grown into a very content teenager. Both consider the ending of their story to be happy-ever-after.

In 1986, they moved into the home of their new loving adopted parents, Fred and Joanne Hugi.

This story is taken primarily from a book by Ann Rule entitled Small Sacrifices.

Book Cover: Small Sacrifices
Book Cover: Small Sacrifices

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